Egypt’s Justice System Goes off the Rails

Egypt’s Justice System Goes off the Rails

Over decades of authoritarian rule in Egypt, and into the recent years of upheaval, one segment of the state enjoyed a reputation for maintaining a considerable degree of independence. In contrast to much of the governing structure, the Egyptian judiciary was willing to challenge the powerful. Its decisions were guided to a large extent by the concept of rule of law. All that is now a thing of the past.

On Monday, an Egyptian judge in the governorate of Minya sentenced to death 680 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the group’s top leader. It was a jaw-dropping verdict, reached without any semblance of due process, and it followed a similar mass death sentence—that one against 529 defendants—by just a few weeks.

The verdict, and the international outcry it produced, came at a particularly awkward moment. When it was announced, Egypt’s foreign minister was in Washington, urging a restoration of American aid by trying to persuade the U.S. that Egypt is making progress on the path toward democracy.

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