Morsi’s political trial

Ziad A. Akl
6 Min Read
Ziad A. Akl
Ziad A. Akl
Ziad A. Akl

Egyptians are fortunate enough to witness two deposed presidents being tried in less than two years. After 30 years of political stagnation Egypt suddenly shows a very high president turnover! Despite the huge difference between both men, Morsi and Mubarak, their presidential pattern has been very similar with exception to the difference in resilience, of course. The two men were surrounded by a corrupt set of cronies, both men had power hungry endeavours and both men designated the many to the service of the few. However, when it came to the question of survival, Morsi was more short-sighted than Mubarak, in addition to, of course, the difference in organisational solidarities between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Armed Forces, for such solidarities did come through in the survival process eventually.

But regardless where you stand, and whether you like it or not, Morsi’s trial is 100% political, despite all the efforts exerted to prove the contrary. Morsi supporters will fully agree while the anti-Brotherhood lobby will do its best to prove that Morsi is being put on trial for actual crimes he committed. The problem is that our judgement of the trial is dependent on the ex-president’s political orientation. Morsi is being tried for political reasons no doubt, so is the rest of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, who is behind bars now. However, acknowledging this fact has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the post 30 June regime or even the legitimacy of Morsi’s desperate claims of his right to presidency.

Morsi is being politically tried because he is guilty of a political crime, one that is not punishable by criminal law. In other words, Morsi is being tried in the wrong courtroom and according to the wrong law. The debate is really not whether Morsi is guilty or not. Although the fact that Morsi is being put on trial means that he could be guilty or not guilty, Morsi is considered guilty by virtue of being put on trial in the first place. If the court finds Morsi not guilty, he will never return to the presidency. What I mean to say is, instead of trying to situate Morsi’s destructive political actions and consequences in a civic criminal context that will never be sufficient to address the full extent of damage done during this last year, it would have been more appropriate to put Morsi, and whoever else is responsible for that damage, on a proper political trial, before a special court and according to special revolutionary laws if necessary.


There will definitely be lots of talk about Morsi’s right to a fair trial, the legitimacy of the new regime being demonstrated within that trial and the concern for justice as a universal value that the post 30 June regime is so careful to implement.  But the truth is, 30 June itself was a legal detour. If we had played by the book from the beginning, the outcome would have been catastrophically different. Revolutions are not situated according to laws and legislation and the criminality they entail; revolutions make up their own political criminality. The revolution from above that took place in early July clearly criminalised the Muslim Brotherhood as an entity and an orientation, trying to deny that is a very desperate attempt to gain the best of both worlds, to trample all over the law in the name of political necessity then hang on to the legal framework of things.

The real problem is not the rule of law; it is how irrelevant the law is to the crime committed. There is so much more that Morsi is guilty of besides encouraging the killing of protestors in front of the presidential palace last December. In fact, due to legal technicalities, Morsi might end up walking out of court not guilty, simply because how limited the law he is being tried according to is. We are simply repeating the same mistakes we did in the Mubarak trial, where Mubarak was not even questioned about all the wrongs he has done and the pains he has caused over the course of 30 years. Until now, our judiciary is incapable of putting Mubarak on fair trial for what he has really done; why should it be successful with Morsi?

If the purpose is to co-opt public opinion and appear democratic, then Morsi’s trial is more an aesthetic process than a legal one. But if the purpose behind this trial is to deliver justice to the Egyptian people who have suffered from Morsi’s corrupt political and economic administration, then the laws themselves need to be reconfigured. Otherwise, Morsi’s trial will always remain a political process that aims to boost the post 30 June legitimacy, regardless of any legal considerations.

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Ziad A. Akl is a political analyst and sociologist. He is a senior researcher at the Egyptian Studies Unit in Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.