Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo yesterday to reassure the men who led the coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected president that the U.S. is content with their progress toward restoring democracy.
It was a confused and confusing message, to say the least. Kerry’s statement that the regime’s plan to hold elections and a referendum on a new constitution “is being carried out to the best of our perception” runs counter to both the truth and U.S. interests.
Kerry couldn’t have picked a worse day to show public support for Egypt’s de facto leader, General Abdelfatah al-Seesi. The U.S.’s most senior diplomat was speaking on the eve of the trial of Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Mursi, and just days after security forces arrested Essam El-Erian, one of the movement’s few leaders still at large. Mursi was today duly flown to a courtroom at Cairo’s police academy — the first time he has been seen in public since he was toppled on July 3 — after being held for interrogation in an unknown location, with minimal access to lawyers, for four months. His legal team says they were given the documents relating to the case one day before the trial began. No wonder Mursi and his 14 co-defendants refused to acknowledge the court and the trial was adjourned.
Mursi is charged with helping other Muslim Brotherhood leaders to escape jail with him during the 2011 revolution and inciting supporters to clash with anti-government protesters outside his presidential palace last December, which led to at least 10 deaths. Whatever the merits of this case, the purpose is transparent: to legitimize the coup and divert attention from orders the current leadership gave this summer to clear Mursi’s supporters from the streets, killing more than 1,000 people. This isn’t the kind of due process that the U.S. should support, even tacitly.