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Daily News Analysis

Sisi’s Dictatorship Ravaging Egypt

Dr Aayesha Soni

The video is chilling: 23-year-old Mahmoud el-Ahmady desperately appeals to the judge in an Egyptian court. His testimony is agonising to watch: a young man who has obviously been brutalised by an unfair regime, now trying to prove his innocence before a flawed justice system.

In August 2016, Mahmoud el-Ahmady, Abulqasim Youssef and Abubakr Ali told an Egyptian court that they had been pressured to confess to a crime they did not commit.

El-Ahmady, a student at al-Azhar University, said he was tortured for 12 days before being forced to record a video in which he said he took part in a government official’s assassination.

“I was blindfolded, hung on the door upside down for seven consecutive hours, and electrocuted in sensitive areas of my body,” his friend Youssef added to the testimony. As a result, he lost sight in his right eye.

Mahmoud, Abulqasim, Abubakr and six others were all executed by the Sisi regime on February 20.

Reacting to news of the executions Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, the anti-death penalty rights group, said they showed that the use of the death penalty by Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is now a full-blown human rights crisis.

“Executions have spiked - bringing the total number to 15 in just two weeks, amid widespread abuses including gross due process violations, torture, false confessions and the repeated use of mass trials. It is shocking that these abuses continue unabated while the international community remains silent.”

In just three years, 1,813 death sentences have been meted out by a farcical judicial system.

The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, an independent group, documented 256 deaths in custody, with 209 detainees having died due to medical negligence.

This has all occurred since Sisi took office in July 2013, when in a Western-backed coup he overthrew the democratically elected government of President Mohamed Mursi.

With a track record that has abolished all the freedoms and rights that the Egyptian people won through the 2011 revolution, Sisi has proven to be far worse than the dictator they fought so valiantly to overthrow, Hosni Mubarak.

The democratically elected party, and most leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood that backed Mursi, as well as the illegally deposed president Mursi languish in jail as Sisi’s regime is provided legitimacy by the Western powers.

The Egyptian people have been abandoned to the non-existent mercies of yet another brutal dictator.

What is even more shocking is the recent decision to appoint Sisi as the newest chairperson of the African Union.

It is as if the world has suffered a bout of serious amnesia when it comes to the crimes of the Sisi regime.

Instead of atonement for all of the gross human rights violations he subjects the Egyptian people to on a daily basis, they have decided to reward Sisi with positions of power.

Further, his collusion with Israel in ensuring the cruel blockade of Gaza and stringently enforcing it has added to the long list of his many criminal acts since he illegally grabbed power.

South Africa’s silence is deafening in this regard. This writer recalls attending many protest marches in support of Sheikh Abdul Salam Jad Bassiouni in 2015, a South African citizen, well-respected leader, teacher and dedicated humanitarian.

He was imprisoned in the infamous Torah prison by the Sisi regime without due process or trial. Sheikh Bassiouni was brutally tortured during his illegal incarceration.

He was released and returned to South Africa only recently yet it is shocking to note that Pretoria did not oppose the election of a notorious dictator as the newest chairperson of the African Union (AU), especially when his actions were directly responsible for the brutalisation of one of our citizens.

The double standards that mar the moral compass defining the world today are shocking.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have categorically stated that the Egyptian court system has made a mockery of due process, with defendants often tried on the basis of confessions obtained through torture or other equally degrading and inhuman methods of mistreatment.

The magnitude of injustice is difficult to overlook. Yet, despite these facts we still see the regime lauded and its dictator propelled into positions of power among its peers.

It is glaringly obvious that if a regime serves the purpose of the Western agenda, it will be protected by those regimes under the guise of establishing democracy and freedom.

Pictures of Mahmoud saying his final goodbyes to his family before his execution are daunting. His case is just one among thousands, an indication of the curse of dictatorship and imposition that has plagued the Egyptian people for years.

When decisions such as that made by the AU most recently as well as the sharp rise in executions go unchallenged, it is a slap in the face to our brethren in Egypt, a direct insult to justice and a humiliating blot to our continent.

Dr Aayesha J Soni is a medical doctor and member of the Media Review Network (MRN). She was also named one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans of 2017 and one of News24’s Future 100 Young Mandelas of 2018.

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