On 7 September a Cairo criminal court handed life sentences to 11 of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading officials, including the group’s supreme guide Mohamed Badie.
The final ruling came after a two-and-half year retrial. The court found the group’s leaders guilty of collaborating with the Palestinian Hamas movement, and Lebanon’s Hizbullah, both of which infiltrated the Egypt-Gaza border during the 2011 January uprising in order to storm jails and free imprisoned Brotherhood members.
Badie’s Brotherhood co-defendants included Mohamed Saad Al-Katatni, Mohamed Al-Beltagui, Essam Al-Erian, Rashad Bayoumi, Mohi Hamed, Saad Al-Husseini, Mustafa Maher Al-Ghoneimi, Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Hazem Farouk and Ibrahim Abu Ouf.
Eight other Brotherhood members were handed 15-year sentences with hard labour. Nine members of the group were acquitted.
Presiding judge Mohamed Sherine Fahmi said that the late Mohamed Morsi would also have been convicted.
Morsi died in June after suffering a heart attack during a session in his espionage trial.
Morsi and his co-defendants had received death sentences in a 2014/2015 trial after they were found guilty of setting fire to prison buildings, murder, attempted murder, looting prison weapons depots and releasing prisoners while escaping from the Wadi Al-Natroun prison on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road.
The Court of Cassation revoked the death sentences in 2016 and ordered a retrial which opened in February 2017.
Abdel-Moneim Al-Oleimi, a member of parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “in accordance with amendments to the criminal procedures law defendants have the right to appeal once, not twice as used to be the case,” and the 7 September ruling was therefore final.
The Brotherhood website Ikhwan Online quoted members of the group’s Guidance Bureau living in Turkey denouncing the sentences as “politicised and unfair”.
Many of the group’s leading figures, including Morsi, denied that Hamas helped them during the chaos that followed the 2011 uprising, insisting that families living around Wadi Al-Natroun had helped them escape.
In his opening statement on Saturday, judge Fahmi said the Muslim Brotherhood was behind all the disasters that had hit Egypt in recent years.
“The Brotherhood doesn’t care about Egypt’s national interests. It seeks only to exploit religion for political and personal reasons,” said Fahmi. “Since it was established in 1928 its focus has been on reaching power in Egypt. To achieve this it created the so-called international organisation, of which Hamas is the military wing.
“Over 88 trial sessions, we listened to the testimony of state officials who were eyewitnesses to the tragic events, and lawyers defending the group’s members. In the end the court could only conclude the Brotherhood exploited the chaos which swept Egypt following the 2011 January protests to implement its old strategy which was to reach power.
“On 28 January 2011, the Friday of Anger, the Brotherhood, in collaboration with Hamas and North Sinai’s takfiri Bedouins, the Army of Islam and Hizbullah, and aided by some foreign powers which sought regime change in the region, spread terror in an attempt to undermine Egypt’s security system.”
Fahmi said a force of 800 militants infiltrated the Egypt-Gaza borders via Rafah on 28 January.
“They came armed with automatic rifles, Kalashnikovs and RPGs. On their way to Cairo they stormed police stations, killed and kidnapped policemen and central security forces, and bombed natural gas pipelines. The rogue forces gained control of Arish.
“The invading forces divided into three groups to storm prison complexes at Al-Marg, Abu Zaabal, and Wadi Al-Natroun. At the latter they were able to release 20,000 prisoners affiliated with the Brotherhood, Hizbullah, Hamas, and other jihadist groups. They did so under the guidance, and with logistical support, of the Brotherhood, killing police officers, torching buildings, stealing weapons and plundering ammunition depots.”
On December 2018, former president Hosni Mubarak was summoned to testify before the court.
“Former General Intelligence chief and vice president Omar Suleiman told me on 29 January 2011 that at least 800 armed people crossed into the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula through tunnels from Gaza with help from the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Mubarak. “They then headed towards the prison to release inmates belonging to Hizbullah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 September, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly