Something is most certainly rotten in the state of Egypt. In a move unprecedented in the judicial history of the country, a court in small town Minya, close to Cairo, has sentenced to death 529 people being tried for the killing of a lone policeman during the protests that followed the removal of Mohamed Mursi as president last year. That the sentence is a travesty of justice is apparent not merely from the fact that the judgment was reached in less than two days of trial, a grossly insufficient time to either present or defend 529 individual cases. But the enormity of the injustice is also elucidated by the fact that none has been held responsible for the deaths of hundreds of pro-Mursi supporters in the military crackdown on sit-in demonstrators that ensued around the same time. In this most brazenly lopsided system of justice, the targets are invariably supporters of Mr Mursi and either members or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. A systematic onslaught on the Muslim Brotherhood started simultaneously with the removal of Mr Mursi, leading to a ban on the organization itself. But even before the Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization last December, its members were treated as terrorists and subjected to indiscriminate arrests. The death sentence passed on the 529 pro-Mursi supporters, to be followed by the trial of 682 other Islamists, is clear evidence of a State pogrom against a section of the people that none seems eager enough to question.
This is a direct contradiction of the ideals of the spring revolution of 2011, which demanded accountability from the Hosni Mubarak government for the atrocities its secret police and military had perpetrated on the people of Egypt for decades. Even under Mr Mursi, Egypt had not given up asking for the trial of the defence personnel involved in the killing of protesters. But as Egypt’s military reconsolidates its grasp on the polity, the country’s civil society seems to have grown happily numb. So long as the military deals with the demon of Islamism, which has been conveniently identified with the Muslim Brotherhood, the chief adversary of the army for decades, Egypt’s people do not want to ask uncomfortable questions. Unfortunately, their paranoia has led to the unseating of a democratic government, the compromising of the independence of the judiciary and persecution of a section of people that can only lead to more bloodshed.