CAIRO: Lawyer and human rights activist Gamila Sadek, a representative of the Syrian Bar Association and the Paris-based Arab Committee for Human Rights, like several would-be observers before her, has recently been barred from attending the trial of 40 Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
The trial has attracted widespread attention both at home and abroad, largely because the defendants were acquitted of the same charges of membership of a banned organization and money laundering before a civilian judge.
“Referring civilians to military courts is wrong, this is not why military courts exist, Sadek told Daily News Egypt. “The government already knows what verdict it wants to see in the court and has forged evidence to make its point. It has all been pre-arranged from the beginning. The whole thing is illegal, unconstitutional and illegitimate.
Sadek says she is not surprised that, like all the observers before her, she was barred from the trial. Even though no one has yet been successful in observing the proceedings, she thinks that it is important for observers to keep trying.
“We have sent four observers before me to observe nine separate court sessions, but each time they have gone to the court our observers have been denied access, she says. “Nevertheless, it is important to come and highlight the political nature of these trials. They are full of legal violations as well, but we think that the political aspects of the case are the most important.
According to Sadek, the military trial is only one front in a widely reaching government crackdown on opposition figures that also extends to factory workers and newspaper editors. But she thinks it is significant due to both the personal wealth and economic influence of many Brotherhood leaders and the public support that the movement enjoys.
“The Muslim Brotherhood includes some very wealthy members who have accumulated a lot of influence in the economy, and the government is afraid of their growing economic power, she says.
“The economic rise of the Brotherhood is competition for the economic monopoly of the National Democratic Party and its elites. That is why they have been charged with money laundering, to attack their finances and block their economic achievements.
Despite the wealth that many of its leaders have accumulated, Sadek says that Egyptian society’s religious devotion has kept many people from considering the Brotherhood to be just another gang of elites.
An avowed secularist and one-time communist, Sadek says that while she herself is not swayed by religious arguments she thinks that for many people the movement’s piety is a big part of its attraction.
“The Arab public usually supports Islamist parties because they think that they are the only ones who can actually fulfill their promises and meet the people’s demands. Most Arabs are religious Muslims so they find Islamist parties generally attractive.
But she says the movement’s Islamic piety also gives the regime an effective means of attacking it, and accuses the regime of attracting Western support for cracking down on opposition groups by painting Islamist activists and politicians as violent extremists.
“The regime here is cracking down on Islamists in part to please Western governments, she says. “It has done a good job of spreading the image that Islamists are all radicals and terrorists, and uses this image to gain the support of Western governments.
“But it’s not true that they are all like that, and it is not true that they are the only ones suffering now, she adds. “The crackdown we are seeing in Egypt now does not just include Islamists. This is not just about the Brotherhood. The government is attacking everyone, and cracking down on leftists and secularists as well.