The Obama administration lifted the freeze on U.S. aid to Egypt March 31st, despite the skepticism of both American and Egyptian society, which questions if the current Egyptian government is deserving or in need of further military aid. Marie Harf, Spokesperson of the United States Department of State, said she found the practice of mass trials and sentencing largely troubling, and that it runs counter to what she thinks due process under the law should look like.
“The recent decision regarding military assistance to Egypt neither suggests that the human rights situation in Egypt has improved nor represents some sort of endorsement of the government of Egypt’s approach to domestic dissent” she told reporters. “I think we’ve been clear that the threats to Egypt’s security have increased over the past few months and obviously we're making decisions based on that, including the growth of ISIL [ISIS] and other things, but that’s why we speak out very strongly when we still have concerns about the human rights situation” she continued.
Harf’s comment was of Cairo’s High Court, that sentenced 14 Muslim Brotherhood members to death, including the Brotherhood’s former leader Mohamed Badea, and 37 others to life in prison, including American citizen Mohamed Sultan, in the trial of the case known as the “Raba Operations Chamber”. The Egyptian Prisons department recently announced that Mohammed Badea has started wearing the “red suit” given to inmates on death row.
According to Al Yaum Al Sabea news website, he wore the new suit “while smiling.” Omar Sultan, Mohamed’s brother, spoke to UC Berkley University and Voice of America urging for more pressure to be exerted to free his brother, claiming the U.S. administration has delayed commenting on his case because he’s an Arab American.
Mohamed Sultan says he had never been an Muslim Brotherhood member, nor had engaged in any political activities before the Raba Sit-in where he guided foreign journalists around so they could cover the events better. Sultan is on a hunger strike which has made him lose a considerable amount of body mass, and his father Salah Sultan is among the 14 Muslim Brotherhood leaders who have been sentenced to death/ Following the ruling, the Freedom and Justice Party, the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood, released a statement saying their strength won’t wither, and the sentences will only makes them stronger and proves them right in their opposition to the government.
The Egyptian political activist most critical of military rule, Mona Seif, commented on the ruling and tweeted “we’re only a tiny steps away from finding ourselves sent to death just like the MB leaders.” Mona Seif’s brother is Alaa Abdel Fattah, another political activist given five years in prison along his 19 year old sister Sanaa Seif for participating in a peaceful protest in front of Al Shura Council last year. The protest was violently dispersed by the Police forces. All of the preceding cases were brought to attention by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) rights organizations, one of the bodies most critical of Egypt’s current leader and coup d’état, president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.ly HRW recently denounced the “Raba Operations Chamber” court rulings, saying the verdict is based on political grounds and lacks basic due process protections.
The most recent crackdown comes one full year after Minya Court of justice in Upper Egypt sentenced 529 Brotherhood supporters to death in absentia in under an hour in March 2014, a ruling HRW also denounced, saying that three of the defense lawyers told them the court prevented them from presenting their case or calling witnesses.
Many media outlets have continued to attribute the ongoing violence in the Sinai Peninsula to the Brotherhood, despite other armed groups declaring responsibility - including ISIS affiliated groups such as Ansar Beit Al Maqdis, and other non ISIS affiliated militias such as Ajnad Misr. According to a report recently issued by The Economist Group’s Democracy Index there have been “156 attacks in the Sinai Peninsula in 2015 only, including the kidnap and murder of both security forces and citizens,” making the Sinai the bloodiest zone in Egypt. Ansar Bait Al Maqdis claimed responsibility for the Arish Police station attack last Monday in Northern Sinai which killed 8 police officers and injured 40 others.