Before the Cairo Criminal Court handed down today’s conviction of three journalists and fifteen others, along with their draconian 7-10 year sentences, Egyptian courts had already demonstrated their complete inability to reason sanely, notwithstanding the massive upheaval there.
Some people may have been seeing stories in the newspapers or on TV about the inhuman and ridiculous sentences dished out by Egyptian courts, but few were paying attention, because it was “only Muslim Brotherhood troublemakers.”
Whether you agree with The Muslim Brotherhood or not, the rule of law is the only way any society can live. Truth is truth and lies are lies. You can’t substitute one for the other. Look back in time and you see the witch burnings and other cases where innocent people have been falsely convicted of crimes and paid for them with their lives.
That is what has been going on in Egypt, but because most of the people receiving the mass death and lesser draconian sentences were Egyptians, few people have been taking notice of the ridiculous proceedings. In the west – and probably most countries, if something doesn’t affect us directly, our attention is easily drawn elsewhere, often to some useless celebrity trivia that really means nothing, or to a dog or cat video.
So much for our humanity!
Another al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah Elshamy, who had been held in an Egyptian prison without charge for more than 310 days was just released. Did anyone know that? Only now do we see what else they have been doing.
The charges leveled at the journalists include
State-sanctioned bad things happen in many countries, even today, even in the west, but much more so in countries where the rule of law means nothing.
But this is real life, and in the case of Egypt, real death. Until this most recent case, no Americans have been involved, no Brits have been involved, no Australians have been involved, and our collective attention was drawn away by things deemed more important, or at least less confronting.
There is very little good news surrounding these ridiculous cases brought by the Egyptian prosecutors who don’t have a clue about providing real evidence, that are judged by people who don’t have a clue about weighing up evidence and applying reason.
It may seem that there is nothing good at all to come out of the case of the Al Jazeera journalists, but I think two good things happened here. The first is that the prosecutors used the same kind of up trumped up charges, the same lack of evidence or fabricated evidence and the same kind of nonsensical arguments they used in other cases. The second is that the judge used the same faulty logic or lack of logic, the same inability to reason in this case, as they did in previous cases, and they handed down another ridiculous sentence as a result of a false conviction.
It is almost a good thing that Peter Greste, an Australian, was caught up in this trial. If all the accused were Egyptians, we would not be talking about this now. Nobody would have been making representations to Egyptian Ambassadors or President al-Sisi. If the journalists had been released, that might have been the end of our interest in this and the other cases. But the prosecutors and judge were on a roll, and they showed the world their stupidity by convicting the men and handling out these draconian sentences. For that reason alone, the Australian government is calling in the Egyptian Ambassador to Australia for a chat.
The presence of one Australian, caught up in this idiocy, at least has the world talking about it, and laughing or sneering at Egypt’s court system.
The new Egyptian government must look at what is happening in its courts. The judiciary, as in all jurisdictions, must be independent from the government, but it must also be fair. People need to know they can walk down a street, not breaking any law, nor having any intention to do so, without the possibility they could be falsely arrested and held in prison while trumped up charges are brought against them by prosecutors who fabricate evidence, and have their case heard by judges who do not know how to reason.
The Egyptian courts, that have been displayed to us over the past two years, are definitely not fair. They can’t even be really described as courts, not as we know them. The Egyptian prosecutors we have had the misfortune to see in action are the type of we expect to see in places where there is no rule of law and courts are used only to remove opponents from normal life, either by incarcerating or killing them.
Once it is known that a court system is not fair, that logic will not prevail in the court, that trumped up charges can stand, that human rights rules are just a piece of paper that can be shredded, that injustice is the norm, then the country represented by that court system will be avoided.
Egypt must understand this. They may not care that we don’t like the result of that case. They may not care that we don’t agree with them. They may not even care that some tourists will stop visiting them. What they will care about, because they are surrounded by enemies, and they have a massive unemployed population, is that we and others will stop supporting them with our money and businesses will not trust them to trade with.
In the West, the people have the ability to control our government, even if the ruling classes think they can do whatever they like, eventually, the people can force their government to stop dealing with draconian governments, if our government doesn’t take the initiative on its own.
In the trial of the three Al Jazeera journalists, the sham trial lacked due process, and was essentially reason-free. As U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry said today, it is “a deeply disturbing set-back to Egypt’s transition. Injustices like these simply cannot stand if Egypt is to move forward in the way that President al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry told me just yesterday that they aspire to see their country advance.”
Something else John Kerry said encapsulates exactly what needs to happen in Egypt.
Speaking to President al-Sisi Kerry said. “I call on him to make clear, publicly, his government’s intention to observe Egypt’s commitment to the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the rule of law. The Egyptian government should review all of the political sentences and verdicts pronounced during the last few years and consider all available remedies, including pardons.”
Egypt, like all countries, has choices to make. It can be a friend, a neighbor, a recipient of support, and a trading partner with other free nations around the world, or it can be a pariah. It doesn’t have to bow down to others to do that, and it can run its own affairs any way it and its people wish.
There are a few things it must do: Be fair, nurture its civil society, allow a free press, and especially, maintain the rule of law.
Sometimes these things are not easy. Sometimes, people bend the rules and make things difficult for a government. Sometimes there are enemies within that must be deal with, because they will stop at nothing to get what they want. Even so, courts must operate with justice and reason, otherwise, you have nothing, and may as well just detain your enemies in the street, without the pretense of bringing them to a sham court.