Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Felool us twice...

[Originally posted at NOW]

Earlier today, less than 24 hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry rewarded Egypt’s new military dictator with a first-time personal visit, bearing housewarming gifts of over $500m and a fleet of Apache attack helicopters, an Egyptian court sentenced six journalists – an Australian, two Britons, a Dutchwoman, an Egyptian and an Egyptian-Canadian – to between seven and ten years in jail on charges of “spreading false news” and supporting “terrorism.”

The entire ‘trial’ had of course from the start been a spectacle of unabashed thuggery. The judge, who had a habit of wearing dark sunglasses in court, based his decision on such compelling evidence as “videos of trotting horses from Sky News Arabia, a song by the Australian singer Gotye, and a BBC documentary from Somalia,” according to the Guardian. Amnesty International added that “prosecutors obstructed the defendants’ right to review and challenge the evidence presented against them” and “key witnesses for the prosecution […] appeared to contradict their own testimony,” concluding the whole procedure was “a complete sham.”

All perfectly despicable, certainly, but why should anyone be surprised? This is, after all, the same regime that has slaughtered “more than 1,400 demonstrators” since coming to power (according to Human Rights Watch), sentenced hundreds more to death, and arrested no fewer than 16,000 political prisoners, many of whom are routinely tortured. Whatever else today’s verdict may be, it’s hardly a departure from the progress of what Kerry once imperishably called the military’s “restoring democracy” – the jailing of secular figureheads of the 2011 revolution; the silencing of Bassem Youssef; the rounding up and deporting of Syrian and Palestinian refugees; Field Marshal Sisi’s laughable 96% election win.

The one ironic consolation is that a show trial aimed at silencing criticism of the ruling junta has in fact only shone a larger and brighter international spotlight upon its depravity. Martin Amis once said what made literary criticism unique was that the critic was forced to use the same tools – i.e., pen and pad – as the artist he was appraising (whereas, say, a theatre critic need not express his thoughts on a new play by leaping on stage and bursting into song). By the same token, what is so singularly stupid about oppressing journalists is that the people who write the news around the world are also journalists. To that extent – admittedly if only to that extent – the felool in their brutality are fashioning rods that one day may be applied to their own backs.

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