Cairo Criminal Court has sentenced the first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi to life in prison and an additional 15-year prison sentence in what is known as the Qatar espionage case. Life sentences in Egypt are 25 years behind bars according to Al-Ahram (a state-owned newspaper).
In addition, the Egyptian court confirmed the death sentence of six defendants two among them are journalists of Al-Jazeera for allegedly passing state secrets to Qatar.Amnesty International Organization condemned Morsi’s verdict and described his trial as a “fundamentally unfair” trial.
According to Morsi’s lawyer, “He was acquitted of supplying Qatar with classified documents but found guilty of leading an unlawful organization.”Moreover, Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud said the former President was also convicted of having “stolen secret documents concerning state security” and handed another 15-year jail term at the Cairo Criminal Court.
The final verdict on the case was issued by the Judges, but the advice of Egypt’s Grand Mufti must still be sought before they are confirmed according to the Egyptian law.
Al-Ahram reported that prosecutors originally claimed that Morsi and the head of his office, Ahmed Abdel-Ati, passed files to Secretary Amin El-Serafy, who then passed them to his daughter, Karima, who gave them to an agent. All were given life sentences of 25 years and additional 14-year terms.
The other defendants include journalists and activists, who were charged with scheming to pass documents to Al-Jazeera, which is based in Doha, and a Qatari spy.
Ibrahim Helal, the former director of news at Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel, was sentenced to death as well as the Alaa Sablan the former correspondent after being accused of leaking national security documents to Qatar.
The other defendant who received a death sentence is Asmaa Alkhatib,a journalist at Rassd News Network.The three journalists aren’t in Egypt and they were tried in absentia.
The other three men who were handed the death penalty are in Egyptian custody – Ahmed Afifi, Mohamed Kilani, and EgyptAir flight attendant and academic Ahmed Ismail.
Since the military coup in 2013, the Egyptian-Qatari relations have deteriorated. This verdict hasn’t been the first issued by the Egyptian judicial authorities. Many journalists of Al-Jazeera have been detained in the Egyptian prisons as Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed, who were detained for “spreading false news,” but they were pardoned later while Australian Peter Greste was deported in that case.
In response, Al-Jazeera claimed that the Egyptian authorities have “consistently and deliberately targeted ” the channel for its coverage of Arab Spring protests in 2011 and they have closed its offices in the country by force. In this context, AL Jazeera rejected all the accusations that it has in any way compromised its journalistic integrity.
Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi regime has targeted journalists and activists who oppose the military rule in the country. In addition, a massive crackdown on human rights groups and organizations have been documented in the recent months for documenting human rights violations in Egypt’s prisons, unfair trials as well as the suppression of press freedom and political participation. The Egyptian authorities have frozen bank accounts and imposed travel bans on rights activists to curb their activities.
Accordingly, International human rights organizations as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reprieve condemned the trials, while the Committee to Protect Journalists lists Egypt as one of the most dangerous places for reporters to work.Amnesty International said in its annual report that criminal justice system was serving as “an instrument of state repression” and political persecution.
Regarding Morsi’s trials, Amnesty described them as being “fundamentally unfair” as they relied on evidence gathered while he was subject to enforced disappearance by the army during the months after being removed from power. Morsi has been sentenced in four major trials. The former president was sentenced to death for alleged involvement in a mass prison break during the Arab Spring, 20 years imprisonment over the detention and torture of protesters and life over supposed collusion with foreign militant groups including Hamas and Hezbollah.
All sentences are currently being appealed and he remains in custody.
After January Revolution that toppled the rule of Egypt’s Dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Morsi became the first democratically elected president of Egypt. However, he was ousted by the Egyptian military in July 2013.