Yesterday, the Egyptian judge who sentenced more than 1,200 alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death earlier this year was unexpectedly removed from his bench. Judge Said Youssef was transferred from the criminal judiciary to the civilian judiciary, according to reports. His court, which investigated and tried terrorism cases—mostly against the Brotherhood—has been “dismantled,” he told The Associated Press.
Could the judge’s demotion have wider significance in the yearlong crackdown against the Brotherhood under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi? Given the scale of repression, any sign of an easing, like dismissing the internationally criticized judge responsible for so many convictions, bears watching.
Of course, the day earlier, the government seized all the copies of a popular daily newspaper to censor an article on security issues, a day after el-Sissi told Charlie Rose that there was “no limitation on freedom of expression in Egypt.” These are strange times, as Steven Cook wrote earlier this week, in which many Egyptians—those generally described as liberals “who were eloquent and tenacious advocates for progressive political change during the Mubarak era”—are now “among the most ardent defenders of the July 3 coup, supporters of the new old order under [el-Sissi], and enthusiasts for dismantling the Muslim Brotherhood.”