Egyptian Judge Affirms Death Sentence For Former President Morsi

Egypt’s legal system, which of course is little more than a tool for its military leaders, took another step down the road toward executing former President Mohammed Morsi:

CAIRO — An Egyptian judge on Tuesday confirmed a death sentence against the deposed president Mohamed Morsi, condemning his rule as a “black night” and his Islamist movement as “satanic” and “diabolical.”

Mr. Morsi’s sentence was among more than 100 handed down last monthby the same court after two sweeping mass trials, including dozens of sentences to death or life in prison. The confirmation on Tuesday was necessary because Egyptian law requires judges to seek the advice ofEgypt’s official Muslim religious authority, the grand mufti, before finalizing sentences of capital punishment. The defendants now have the right to appeal through the courts.

Some analysts had speculated that Egyptian officials or the court might seek to reduce Mr. Morsi’s sentence to avoid a martyrdom that could inspire his supporters or other Islamists around the region. Instead, the resentencing on Tuesday was notable for the expansive and overtly political language the court used to explain its decision.

In both the mass trials, the charges carried political overtones from the start. One case charged that when Mr. Morsi was a political prisoner under President Hosni Mubarak, he and others escaped from extralegal detention during the 18-day uprising in 2011 against Mr. Mubarak’s rule. The other case charged that, after Mr. Mubarak was driven from office and Mr. Morsi was elected president, he and his Islamist allies conspired with foreign powers and terrorist groups to commit espionage against Egypt.

Lawyers for Mr. Morsi had argued that the court had no jurisdiction over him because he was still Egypt’s legitimate president, despite the military takeover that removed him from power in 2013.

In response, Judge Shaaban el-Shami, who presided over a three-judge panel in the case, devoted much of his statement Tuesday to a defense of the takeover, while saying hardly anything about the specific evidence in the cases. The judge prefaced his announcement with a lengthy critical history of the Muslim Brotherhood, the 87-year-old Islamist revival movement that backed Mr. Morsi and dominated Egypt’s free elections.

Since the Brotherhood’s inception under the British-backed Egyptian monarchy, Judge Shami declared, the group has been “aiming to overturn the regime and to permit the spilling of blood between sons of the nation, as well as conspiring with foreign organizations outside the country, Egypt, to execute its diabolic satanic plans, under the cloak of religion and Islam, in violation of the law.”

After “the black night” of Mr. Morsi’s year in office, the judge said, “the dawn of human conscience arrived” with his ouster by the military in 2013. “All Egyptians came out, all over Egypt, demanding the building of a strong and cohesive Egyptian society that does not exclude any of its sons and currents, and ends the state of conflict and division,” he said, concluding that the military “sided with the sovereignty of the people.”

Nathan Brown, a professor at George Washington University who studies the Egyptian judicial system, said in an email that the verdicts in the two cases “endorse a conspiracy theory sufficiently odd that, if I were to hear it from a fellow passenger on the New York subway, I would quickly move to another car.” He called the decision “a fundamental malfunction of the Egyptian state,” with the court accepting at face value the claims of the security services “after a hysterical media campaign fed by state bodies.”

There are, apparently, still multiple levels of appeal for this case to go through before there is a final sentence. In reality, though, the entire outcome in this case is in the hands of the Egyptian military and President al-Sisi. Despite the fact that it would seem to be entirely counterproductive to execute the only democratically elected President in Egyptian history, and the fact that this an similar actions only seem guaranteed to drive the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups into the arena of violent extremism, they seem intend on going forward with this right now. As long as that’s the case, Egypt will continue down this path and it’s hard to know exactly where it will all end.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. mike shupp says:

    Morsi is a former resident for some years in the USA, a NASA researcher and a professor of engineering at Cal State Northridge. As well as a democratically elected Egyptian President. Granted, most of us would probably have reservations about the policies he espoused there, but he also can be seen as “one of our own” merits defense on such grounds. I would really hope the State Department is working behind the scenes to save his life. Perhaps he could be expelled from Egypt and accept exile in this country?