Egypt: For Sisi, executing Morsi has its benefits and drawbacks

Former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi's death sentence could add fuel to an already raging Islamist insurgency.

May 18, 2015 00:53
2 minute read.
Mohamed Morsi trial

Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi gestures after his trial behind bars at a court in the outskirts of Cairo. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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If carried out, the death penalty requested by an Egyptian court on Saturday for former president Mohamed Morsi could boost President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi by putting an end to calls to return the Muslim Brotherhood leader to power, but would be countered by international and domestic censure.

In February, death penalty verdicts against 36 Islamists were overturned in what could have set a precedent for this case.

Moreover, Egyptian authorities could be worried about the repercussions of killing Morsi, and that it could add fuel to an already raging Islamist insurgency. It could lead many Muslim Brotherhood supporters to radicalize even further and join jihadist groups such as Islamic State, which is active in Sinai.

US and European criticism is also certainly going to weigh on Sisi and become a thorn in his side when seeking economic and military aid from them, if Morsi is executed.

However, for Sisi’s regime, killing the former president could be seen as a nail in the coffin of the Muslim Brotherhood movement which has seen its leadership decimated by arrests, while some leaders have fled the country.

Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs today and a contributor to this newspaper, told The Jerusalem Post that while many in the West were expressing their outrage over the death sentence, Standard & Poor’s upgraded Egypt’s outlook to positive from stable.

It was undoubtedly a vote of confidence to Sisi’s efforts to create sustainable economic growth, said Mazel.

“This will give confidence to potential investors from the West and lessen the burden of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries which have been making a remarkable effort to support Egypt’s economy,” he said.

“Egypt is still hampered by low income, institutional shortcomings, illiteracy and unemployment, but there is a glimmer of hope after four years of almost chaos that followed the fall of [president Hosni] Mubarak,” asserted the former Israeli ambassador to the country.

The seeking of the death penalty, he continued, “is certainly part of the difficult war that Sisi is waging against Islamic terrorism [which is] aiming to destabilize Egypt” and bring it to the situation of Libya, Syria or Iraq.

“It must be understood that the legal system in Egypt draws its basic law from the Shari’a according to the constitution that stipulates that the Shari’a is the principal source of the legislation,” noted Mazel.

Mazel, though, is not sure that the sentence will actually be carried out, since it could be overturned on appeal; or the most senior religious authority in the country, the mufti, who has the last say on the verdict, could also reject it.

Many will say that this is a political verdict, said Mazel.

Even so, he added, “the defendants were guilty and had endangered the security of Egypt as well as bearing the responsibility for killing unarmed demonstrators.”

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