CAIRO - Ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has had his life sentence overturned by Egypt’s top appeals court Tuesday, in the second of three convictions.
Egypt’s top appeals court threw out the second of two life sentences against former President Morsi Tuesday, in a conviction on espionage charges involving the Palestinian Hamas group. A death sentence against Morsi was overturned by the same court last week. Sentences against several associates were also quashed.
The former president and his associates will be retried in the two cases that were overturned. He must still serve a 20 year sentence on a conviction for responsibility in the illegal torture and detention of protesters outside the presidential palace in 2012. The sentence in that case was confirmed earlier this year.
President Morsi was arrested after being ousted by the Egyptian military on June 30, 2013. He was detained after refusing an ultimatum to hold a popular referendum over his rule in the wake of large protests.
The most serious charges against the former president involve transmitting secret government documents to the Gulf state of Qatar. Qatar was a close ally and supporter of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group.
Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud, a lawyer for the now outlawed group, told the French press agency (AFP) that he believes the appeals court’s decision Tuesday to quash the life sentence against Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders was fair, since “the (initial) verdict was full of legal flaws.”
Egyptian political sociologist Said Sadek tells VOA that he thinks the softening of the punishment meted out to top Muslim Brotherhood leaders may be tied to the new international climate following the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president:
“(The court ruling) comes at a time when the (Egyptian) government feels emboldened by the election of President Trump, so they feel now that they are strong enough to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t lead to any provocations,” he said.
Sadek does not believe, however, that the series of retrials of top Muslim Brotherhood leaders will lead to an outright acquittal, any time soon:
“The legitimacy of (President Abdel Fattah al Sissi’s) regime depends on fighting terrorism, so acquitting Muslim Brotherhood leaders would be counter-productive to this strategy, for the time being,” he said.
President Sissi has the right to pardon those convicted by the Egyptian judiciary, and some analysts have told VOA recently that they think the Muslim Brotherhood may be seeking some form of de-escalation with the government, now that it feels that international developments are going against it.
U.S. President-elect Trump has vowed to step up the fight against Islamic terrorism and several of his close advisors have called the Muslim Brotherhood the “mother of all terrorist organizations.”