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Published: Thursday, 3/27/2014


Wither Arab Spring

The promise of the Arab Spring that swept through much of North Africa and the Middle East two years ago has yet to be realized. Although dictators and autocrats found their regimes buckling and sometimes collapsing under the weight of popular uprisings, the governments that replaced them haven’t been beacons of democracy.

There’s no bigger disappointment than Egypt, a longtime American ally now under the velvet fist of another military regimes. Last year, President Mohamed Morsi’s government was overthrown by a popular uprising sanctioned by the Egyptian military. Because Mr. Morsi was the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the military was wary of him and welcomed his removal.

This week, an Egyptian judge sentenced 529 members of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death for the murder of a police officer. The trial, which lasted only two days, was remarkable because those charged were not allowed to call witnesses, present evidence, or mount a defense.

Even by the authoritarian standards of the Hosni Mubarak regime, which preceded Mr. Morsi, it was a shocking verdict. The U.S. State Department denounced the mass sentences as “politically motivated.”

Egypt’s supreme religious authority, the Grand Mufti has yet to weigh in. The verdict could be set aside by the mufti or an appeals court. Still, the international human rights community isn’t withholding its condemnation.

Making matters worse, the same judge said that he will issue verdicts next month in a mass trial of 683 members of the brotherhood. With 1,600 suspected Islamists in custody, Egypt’s Arab Spring threatens to degenerate into a long, hot summer of injustice.

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