Egypt: The odd case of the Minya verdict

Nader Bakkar , Monday 7 Apr 2014

The verdict of capital punishment levelled at hundreds in the Al-Minya case does not follow the Egyptian judiciary's established customs

No two sane people would disagree regarding the odiousness of the crime committed in Al-Minya Governorate, especially after it was photographed and seen by millions. But those same two may disagree about a verdict accusing hundreds of having committed this crime and sentencing them all to death, as ruled the court trying the culprits.

Astonishingly, the court verdict to transfer the papers of over 500 defendants to the Mufti pending their execution en masse is basically a contravention of the Egyptian judiciary customs -- established on the basis of a substantial jurisprudential opinion -- which have ruled in similar cases of a mob killing one person. So, why is an exception made of this verdict?

Not to mention that this shocking judgement was issued after only two sessions, the first of which was procedural. There was no time for the defence to display material evidence, or be granted full opportunity to present pleadings, as is any defendant's legitimate right.

Some quarters' justification of the ruling as "a threat" intended to compel the accused fugitives to hand themselves in is an illegal rationalisation which the court cannot mention in its verdict's whereases. As refraining from applying the principle of clemency in the case of a trial in absentia is the utmost the judges can resort to, the verdict was unprecedented in the history of the Egyptian judiciary.

We are not a primitive, savage society so that we may adopt the approach of making free with a whole faction of human beings, even if one of them has openly killed, incited the use of violence or frightened unsuspecting people. We are a society that observes Allah's saying: "If someone is killed unjustly, We have given his next of kin certain authority. But he should not be excessive in killing, for he will be supported". A society that knows injustice should not be met with injustice.

I know that after a respite, executing this verdict -- which will be easily revoked before higher litigation courts -- will prove legally impossible. However, the question remains: who benefits from news of such grave inconvenience to both those inside and outside Egypt? Who benefits from expanding the surface of hatred and menacing what's left of a fragile social peace? Who is interested in granting those traders in blood a chance to drive young boys and girls to the inferno of a battle where everyone loses and the country is burnt out?

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