[JURIST] The Cairo Criminal Court on Monday sentenced outspoken ultraconservative Islamist leader and former presidential hopeful Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail to a year in prison for comments allegedly made at another trial. In that trial, during which he stood accused of attempting to conceal the US citizenship of his mother in order to qualify for a presidential bid, Abu-Ismail reportedly stated [AP report], “The court is void … This is not a real judiciary in the first place.” Abu-Ismail was a top ally and supporter of former Egyptian president Muhammed Morsi, and his supporters have seen his prosecution as part of the crackdown on Morsi supporters in the wake of the military coup that ousted him from power in 2013.
Conflict between pro-Morsi supporters and the Egyptian interim government has been relatively constant since the coup, with many of his most prominent supporters being charged with various crimes. However, Egyptians approved [JURIST report] a new constitution by referendum on January 16th, and it is yet unclear what if any impact this might have on the judicial proceedings underway against former Morsi supporters. Earlier this month, in three separate trials, Egyptian courts convicted [JURIST report] 113 members of the Muslim Brotherhood of various offenses stemming from November protests in Cairo. This is one of the largest mass trials to date in the nation. Just two days earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood, which originally supported Morsi and has subsequently been banned [JURIST report] in Egypt, filed [JURIST report] a complaint with the International Criminal Court alleging crimes against humanity committed by the Egyptian military in its time in power since the July 2013 coup. The Egyptian judiciary [JURIST backgrounder] has been forced into the role of de-facto mediator between Egyptian factions during this political turmoil, prompting inquiry into the court system’s fairness and legitimacy.