Almost two years after his ousting, former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi faces the death penality on charges of inciting killing protesters Tuesday following a preliminary verdict against him, the AFP reported.
The fresh trial is only the first in which Morsi faces the death penalty change. He also faces charges of spying for foreign powers and escaping from prison during Egypt's first wave of massive anti-government protests against the regime of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Separate verdicts for those charges will be determined in trials scheduled for May 16.
One year into Morsi's rule as Egypt's first freely-elected president, a fresh wave of massive street protests led to the Muslim Brotherhood leader's ousting by former army chief and current president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, on July 3, 2013.
Experts say a death sentence charge for the former leader should not be ruled out as a possibility in Tuesday's trial in the country, where Morsi's Brotherhood has long been blacklisted and its accused members handed similarly harsh sentencing.
Following the Brotherhood's fall from power in 2013, security forces under Sisi's order made sweeping arrests across the country of its supporters, sentencing hundreds to death and killing at least 1,400 protesters in a brutal crackdown the UN deamed "unprecendented in recent history."
In addition to Brotherhood supporters, security forces have targeted liberal and secular activists who played pivotal roles in the 2011 uprising against Mubarak rule.
Meanwhile, the long-ousted leader saw his own murder charges dropped in a November trial in which he was accused of causing the deaths of hundreds of protesters.
Morsi will be joined by 14 other defendents Tuesday, in a trial focused on clashes that took place in front of the presidential palace on December 5, 2012. Morsi and other Brotherhood affiliates are charged with killing three protesters and torturing serveral others who were protesting against a decree that put Morsi above judicial review.
Morsi's lawyers argue there is no proof it was his party who incited the clashes, saying instead that most killed during the protest were Brotherhood members.
But even if the ousted leader is not handed a death sentence Tuesday, he could spend still spent the rest of his life behind bars, and any harsh sentence will serve as the final push to abolish the Brotherhood's presence in Egypt, according to experts.
While the trial could end with a death penalty change, H A Hellyer of the Washington-based Brookings Centre for Middle East Policy told the AFP the implementation of the change is unlikely, even for the crackdown standards demonstrated Sisi's military rule so far.
"The execution of Morsi would represent an escalation by the Egyptian authorities that they do not appear willing to engage in," said Hellyer," he said. "Internationally, it will be received badly that an elected president overthrown via a military incursion into politics, even if that military is popular, is then dealt a harsh judicial sentence."
Throughout his leadership, Sisi has vowed to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood, whose 85-year-long presence in Egypt seized the opportunity for more power after the fall of Mubarak. The group made major gains during the country's first democratic election in 2012, and Morsi because Egypt's first freely elected president.
But their popularity among citizens was short lived. Now in a country long known for its military rule, democratic activists say Sisi's rise to power has killed off lingering hopes among Egyptians who worked to topple Mubarak back in 2011 and looked forward to a democratic Egypt.
Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, a political science professor at Cairo University, told the AFP Egypt's crackdown on the Brotherhood is one of the worst in the group's history. And while the Brotherhood consistently denies resorting to violence itself, al-Sayyid said the dire situation could lead some of the group's downtrodden supporters to turn to extremism.
Numerous attacks have been carried out on Egyptian security forces across the country over the last year, most of which have been claimed by Daesh-linked extremist groups based there.
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