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Hullabaloo


Sunday, March 30, 2014

 
Egypt shows the not-so-glorious results of anarchic change

by David Atkins

Two stories out of Egypt are making some headlines. First, over 500 people sentenced to death--for the killing of one police officer:

More than 500 people in Matea, Egypt, have been sentenced to death. On one street alone, a juice store owner, a sweets shop owner, a doctor and more than 20 others have been condemned.

Now to rural Egypt where the people of one town are reeling from a shocking court ruling earlier this week. Five hundred and twenty-nine people were sentenced to death for the killing of a police officer in street violence last year. Many were tried in absentia and the judge's ruling came after barely any evidence was heard. Amnesty International says it might be the largest mass death sentence in modern times.

NPR's Leila Fadel visited the town.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Some 100 miles south of Cairo, there is a town called Matea, a town that feels condemned. Five hundred and twenty-nine people from a town of maybe 50,000 people who live here and in the surrounding villages were sentenced to death this week. This is a small spot on the map of mostly unpaved roads, low slung buildings and mom and pop shops.

And on every narrow street, at least one family, often more, have a relative or several who may be hanged for accusations they couldn't defend themselves against. Last August, this town, like a lot of Egypt, saw clashes between police and Islamists. One policeman was killed and for that crime, after barely an hour of court time this week, a judge sentenced hundreds to die.

Then there's the bill labeling student protest a terrorism crime punishable by death:

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) expresses its grave concern over two draft legislations that the Egyptian Cabinet has referred to the State Council Administrative Court for legal review. The first consists of amendments to provisions related to the crime of terrorism in the penal code while the second deals with the procedural aspects relating to combating terrorism. These laws are at the final stage and their adoption could take place shortly.

If Egypt's history is of any indication, the adoption of more repressive legislations and security measures is not successful in deterring terrorist attacks, or even in identifying and punishing their perpetrators in most cases.

What Egypt needs are not more legislations to address terrorism, but serious revision to its legislative framework to ensure its conformity with international standards. The government has been using this framework to arrest and detain arbitrarily political dissidents and subject them to torture and ill treatment. This week's ruling of a criminal court sentencing 529 people to death, possibly the largest mass death sentence in the world in recent years, testifies to the lack of basic due process protections and the urgent need for reform.

The legislative reforms in question are extremely worrying in the current context as they step up repression by criminalizing many peaceful and legitimate activities that fall within freedom of expression, association and assembly, lumping them as 'terrorism crimes' punishable by the death penalty. Indeed, these measures are paving the way for an undeclared state of emergency and arbitrariness.
Anarchic revolution does not produce a just world. Under extreme oppression it is sometimes necessary, but it must be followed immediately by a strong progressive organization for improvements to be made. That didn't happen in Egypt, and this is the result.

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