Morsi, Samaha and the circus of Arab judiciary

Morsi, Samaha and the circus of Arab judiciary
Comment: Recent sentences handed down in Egypt and Lebanon suggest the idea of judges' independence is nothing but a boring joke, argues Maen al-Bayari.
3 min read
18 May, 2015
Morsi's sentencing sparked an international wave of support for the condemned leader [Anadolu]
It is ironic that former President Mohamed Morsi faced the charge of "insulting the judiciary", as fabricated by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's administration.

Perhaps some may find this a boring joke. The judiciary "insulted" by the imprisoned president does not need anyone to insult it. Egypt's civil and military courts are already doing so themselves.

Over the past two years, these courts have handed down a variety of sentences - the latest being Morsi's death sentence - that have belittled the notions of justice and the rule of law.

Those involved in this judicial circus remain callous and indifferent towards the multiple condemnations issued by international human rights organisations.

For those who love Egypt and its people, the worst thing is that its judiciary, like its media and politics, have changed. You hardly hear any good news about Egypt these days.

This idolisation of Sisi - who has done nothing to benefit the country or its people since he became president in June 2014 - means the people have adopted a terrible mindset and won nothing in return.

Is the worn out, corrupt judiciary a reason why Egypt has fallen from its position as a leading regional power? The answer is probably yes.
     Is the worn out, corrupt judiciary a reason why Egypt has fallen from its position as a leading regional power? The answer is probably yes.

Corrosion of the judicial system is taking place in (at least) two Arab countries: Egypt, where the state is powerful and central, and "stateless" Lebanon, as the Lebanese poet Said Akl once described it.

In Lebanon, former information minister Michel Samaha was this month sentenced to four and a half years in prison, after confessing to transporting explosives from Damascus to Lebanon in his car in 2012.

He was apparently following the orders of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Assad's security adviser, Ali Mamlouk - who both wanted to assassinate key Lebanese religious and political figures.

The military court judge who issued this ridiculously lenient sentence was not following the ideals of the Lebanese state as much as he was following orders from a certain key international player, to whom he remains loyal.

Just as Hosni Mubarak, his sons, Habib al-Adly, and their associates are all now enjoying their freedom, after the joke of their brief imprisonment - and while death and life imprisonment sentences are showering Morsi and his associates, as well as the youths of the 25 January - Michel Samaha and Israeli agents are receiving reduced sentences for their sectarian and political affiliations.

The farcical sentences against Samaha in Lebanon and Morsi (and others) in Egypt confirm the corrosion of Arab judiciary.

However, the "post-modern" and "post-politics" corruption in Egypt and Lebanon are but two examples where the justice system is not seen as anything more than an afterthought to rubber-stamp decisions made long in advance of any court hearing, with judges to be wheeled out and used when needed.       

Maen al-Bayari is a Jordanian author and analyst. He is the comment editor of al-Araby al-Jadeed's Arabic edition.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.