A court in southern Egypt Monday convicted 529 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, sentencing them to death on charges of murdering a policeman and attacking police.
The defendants were arrested after violent demonstrations that were a backlash for the police crackdown in August on pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo that killed hundreds of people.
Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says former military chief and now-presidential candidate Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is consolidating his military dictatorship and sending a dramatic message.
“People who had said, 'Oh, we're going back to [ousted President Hosni] Mubarak's time' are now saying this is going back to [Gamal Abdel] Nasser in the 1950s when he cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood,” Landis says. “Many of the liberals and many of the young people who welcomed in this military dictatorship thinking it would protect their freedoms of speech and other things are now beginning to regret it.”
Landis says it’s unclear how long the instability will last, but Washington officials continue to argue Egypt is moving toward democracy.
“They’ve tried still not to call this a coup d ’tat because they would have to withdraw their aid,” Landis says. “Everybody is flummoxed. They don't know how to deal with this. They're condemning it, yet they don't want the Muslim Brotherhood.”
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