Ousted President Mohamed Morsi and several leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are set to stand trial again at Cairo Criminal Court on Tuesday October 14, in the “Grand Espionage Case.”
Charges against them include spying for the Palestinian group Hamas, and coordinating with foreign organizations to smuggle agents into the country after the June 30 protests, in order to bring about chaos and instability.
The espionage case includes 20 imprisoned defendants. Among them are Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, along with a number of his aides, members of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Office, and advisors of the ousted president. The prosecutor has also ordered the arrest and trial of an additional 16 defendants, many of who have fled the country.
Emad Shahin, a professor of public policy and a visiting professor at Georgetown University, is one of the 16 defendants, currently in Washington DC. Shahin issued a statement denouncing the charges made by State Security prosecution. He said he was surprised by the litany of charges, which included providing financial support for an illegal organization and harming national unity and security.
Shahin challenged the prosecution to present real evidence that substantiates any of the charges against him. “I am an academic and have been independent throughout my life. I am an advocate for democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and a fervent supporter of the January 25 Revolution in Egypt,” he told Mada Masr.
He said State Security prosecution falsely considers him to be a fugitive, but that he has no travel ban, nor has he been subpoenaed for investigation.
The indictment of Shahin on charges of espionage, and his classification as a member of the Brotherhood, has sparked much criticism of Egypt’s authorities, especially within academia.
Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, and a friend of Shahin, told Mada Masr that such charges — imposing repression and arbitrary measures regarding academic freedoms — prove Egypt is on the wrong track. He suggested that academics who do not support the June 30 regime are being persecuted and indicted with fabricated charges to force them to retract their opinions.
The youngest defendant in the case is Hassan, the 20-year-old son of Khairat al-Shater, and a student at the German University in Cairo. “All charges against us are unreasonable,” he told Mada Masr, adding, “There will come a time when everything will be revealed, and everyone will realize that this espionage story is just ludicrous.”
If they were spying for Hamas, he pondered, why are the majority of the Islamist organization and its leaders still in Cairo under the eyes of the Egyptian government?
One of the defendants is a deceased Palestinian, according to Mohamed al-Damaty, Morsi’s defense attorney.
As stated in the case documents, the charges include spying for foreign organizations — the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. These organizations are accused of running terrorist activities in Egypt, and having the defendants execute them by attacking state property, institutions, employees and citizens, to create chaos and bring down the regime.
The alleged ultimate objective was for the Muslim Brotherhood to come to power, through communication with official and unofficial foreign agencies.
They allegedly received media training on how to spread rumors, create propaganda, and steer national and international public opinion to serve their purposes.
The charges also include conspiring and coordinating with jihadi organizations both inside and outside Egypt, receiving military training in Gaza, and using weapons smuggled through the country’s eastern and western borders.
In a statement to Mada Masr, Damaty questioned the integrity of the trial, referring to the political dispute between the Brotherhood and the state apparatus responsible for the investigation, including State Security, National Security and Military Intelligence.
Such bodies believe Brotherhood members have taken their places by ascending to power, Damaty argued. He added that the constitutional declaration — issued by Morsi in 2012, claiming oversight over his decisions — and the unprecedented sacking of the public prosecutor, created vindictive animosity in the judiciary.
Damaty said previous court sessions have proven the implications of this political conflict, based on fabricated evidence and no investigation. “All deliberations are based on political grounds, to assert that June 30 was a popular revolution against the claims of its opponents. Thereby, the judiciary became a political opponent and not a neutral party.”
He added that the public prosecution took advantage of Article 206 A of the Criminal Procedure Law, which grants the investigating magistrate the right to detain defendants for 150 days without justification, which has been used against all members of the Brotherhood facing trials.
As the “Grand Espionage Case” unfolds, after being in session for over eight months, Morsi, his presidential team, and leaders of the Brotherhood are facing a new case, which the prosecution described as “the greatest espionage and treason case in the country’s history.”
The public prosecutor’s statement noted that “the ousted president exploited his powers, and provided classified national security intelligence, with the aid of his assistant Ahmed Abd al-Aty, and Amin al-Serafy — his private secretary, to Qatari intelligence and Al Jazeera officials through eight spies, in return for US$1 million, upon orders from the Brotherhood’s international organization.”
As for the new case procedures, Damaty explained that the sessions have not yet been scheduled, and none of Morsi’s defense attorneys are to attend, as the prosecution is providing its own attorney to conduct procedures. The case has been referred to the Court of Appeals, and is still pending its first session.
Hazem Hosny, professor of public policy at Cairo University, said the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood is a greater priority for the movement than its Egyptian cohort. Hosny referred to a statement by Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, when he said that “the organization’s leader is of higher rank and importance than the country’s president,” maintaining that it is totally unacceptable to conspire with foreign agencies against the country’s interests.
Nevertheless, Hosny said he finds the way such cases were handled after the January 25 revolution to be ill-advised, detrimental and exhausting to the judiciary. He expressed concerns over the involvement of the judiciary in such critically political cases, emphasizing that the state needs to systematically reform all its institutions.
*Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the trial would resume on Monday, October 13. This was corrected on October 13.