On Sunday the Court of Cassation — Egypt’s highest judicial authority — upheld the life sentences handed down to 10 senior Muslim Brotherhood officials, including the outlawed group’s supreme guide Mohamed Badie.
The court found that the international branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, in collaboration with the Shia Lebanese Party Hizbullah, the Palestinian movement Hamas, and armed elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were able to infiltrate Egypt’s eastern border with Gaza and help large numbers of Islamist prisoners escape during the security vacuum that followed the 2011 uprising.
The court said all appeals filed by Brotherhood defendants had been rejected and that its judges agreed that the Cairo criminal court verdict issued in September 2019, should be upheld.
The Court of Cassation judgement is the second against the Muslim Brotherhood in a month. On 14 June, the court upheld death sentences passed against 12 Muslim Brotherhood leaders involved in 2013’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square mass sit-in protest which was dispersed by security forces. The 12 Brotherhood leaders include prominent officials such as Mohamed Al-Beltagui and Safwat Hegazi, the main organisers of the 2013 sit-in protests in east Cairo’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square and west Cairo’s Nahda Square.
Following the dispersals, Islamist activists affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood and militant Salafist groups, attacked police stations, electricity pylons, the Media Production City, and churches across the country.
Tarek Fahmi, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said in a TV interview that Sunday’s ruling would severely undermine the Brotherhood.
“The verdicts came after much deliberation and are final,” said Fahmi. “The court rejected the defendants’ appeals, concluding that the Brotherhood leaders were active in destabilising the country in 2011. The group coordinated closely with Islamist militant movements such as Hamas and Hizbullah, and when the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak began to collapse moved quickly to exploit the chaos.
“The ruling sends a clear message that the Muslim Brotherhood has no hope whatsoever of returning to power in Egypt.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives on Monday approved legislation that allows state employees with proven links to the Muslim Brotherhood or any other terrorist-designated groups to be dismissed.
Ibrahim Al-Heneidi, chair of the House’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said the new law, first submitted by MP Ali Badr, “reflected a general awareness of the necessity of ridding government and administrative circles of Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist elements”.
According to Heneidi, the bill, an amendment to the Law on Non-Disciplinary Dismissal of Civil Servants (10/1973), will also help protect national security by purging the government and administrative system of employees holding radical ideologies.
“The new law defines the conditions under which civil servants and state employees with proven links to the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist-designated organisations can be dismissed,” said Al-Heneidi. “Civil servants and state employees will first be suspended from exercising their roles for six months, a period during which they will be paid half their salary. After six months they will be completely and legally dismissed.”
Badr said he drafted the law in response to the pressing need to remove terrorist elements from the administrative system.
“Cabinet ministers had complained to parliament that they lack the legal tools to rid their ministries of civil servants who espouse radical ideologies and with links to the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Badr. “The new law gives them the means to sack employees with proven links to the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist-designated groups.”
The law gives civil servants the right to appeal against their dismissal and return to their jobs should their links to extremist organisations prove to be false.
“The current civil service law prohibits state employees from using their jobs to serve radical agendas or publish confidential information on social media but in recent years employees have ignored these prohibitions. It was important that the law be amended to fight this phenomenon, and protect the state from the Muslim Brotherhood’s wicked plans,” MP Essam Alaa told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Minister of Transport Kamel Al-Wazir told parliament last month that Egypt’s Railway Authority includes 162 Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated employees. He urged MPs to change the law and give him the tools to rid the Railway Authority of “the forces of darkness and evil”.
Last month, Minister of Waqf (Religious Endowments) Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa complained to MPs that “there are many sleeper Muslim Brotherhood cells in government ministries and the Brotherhood spends a lot of money on these cells to promote its agenda in government circles and stir up trouble”.
Ibrahim Shaarawi, deputy justice minister, said the law will allow the state to fight extremist elements in administrative circles “while at the same time allowing state employees to appeal their dismissal before administrative courts”.
Abdel-Fattah Mohamed, a member of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, argued that the legislative changes had become an urgent priority because “extremist and terrorist groups had been able to infiltrate government circles in recent years, mostly in the form of sleeper cells”,
“When the Muslim Brotherhood was in power between 2012 and 2013, it worked to place its members in all government sectors,” he said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 July, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.