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​Egypt’s death sentences against Islamists an 'intimidation tactic' ahead of election

An Egyptian court sentenced nearly 700 Muslim Brotherhood members to death on Monday for organizing violent protests after the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi. The verdict is intimidation ahead of May elections, activist Ahmed Naguib told RT.

Monday's preliminary ruling will be reviewed by the country's highest religious authority.

“It's easy for the preliminary sentence to be so harsh because, politically, it serves as an intimidation tactic by the state towards the Muslim Brotherhood,” Naguib said. “But this definitely has not deterred the Muslim Brotherhood from continuing the protests.”

The 6th of April youth movement was also outlawed on suspicion of being behind uprisings against former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

RT:Previously, some 500 activists had been condemned to death, but only 37 of those sentences were later confirmed. What's the point of the authorities handing down these sentences if they're not being put into force?

Ahmed Naguib: Definitely, those pressure tactics that they have employed since June 30, 2013, those are intimidation tactics to both political dissidents at large and any voice of opposition, and specifically to the Muslim Brotherhood. We've seen in the verdict that was sentenced more than a month ago - for 529 people sentenced to death - we saw the court of appeals rescinded and revoked that sentence. Only 37 out of the 529 [were sentenced to death]. It's easy for the preliminary sentence to be so harsh because, politically, it serves as an intimidation tactic by the state towards the Muslim Brotherhood. But this definitely has not deterred the Muslim Brotherhood from continuing the protests.

RT:The 6th of April youth movement was banned today. Why are they being targeted, do you think?

AN: You have to understand that the 30th of June was not only a coup, but it was a revolution that was more or less used by the military generals and the deep state, the Mubarak regime, to become an anti-revolution movement. So now we're all being punished, one after the other, now that the Muslim Brotherhood - the largest opposition group to the Mubarak regime - has been sided away, and now the deep state is punishing one group after the other and targeting individuals who were in the front lines of the revolution from the very beginning.

RT:The Muslim Brotherhood's leader was one of the people handed a death sentence today. Don't you think this will only mobilize pro-Morsi supporters?

AN: Absolutely. If we see that, in the so-called presidential elections, General Sisi wins, escalated violence will be inevitable. On the other hand, [there will be] escalated crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and any voice of dissidence under the name or pretext of national security and war on terrorism.

RT:Presidential elections are planned for near the end of May. Might this explain the ongoing crackdown?

AN: Definitely. Not just that. You can see heightened targets of terrorism against the police. And that definitely could be explained to both tactics used by the military and intelligence community, as well as real terrorism. When you've imprisoned 20,000 people in six months, tortured 17,000, and killed 3,000, that definitely might harbor more violence.

RT:How do you see things panning out after the elections?

AN: Not very well, because this crackdown will continue. The economic situation is very dire. The Saudi and Gulf financial support and subsidies cannot continue forever. So whomever will become Egypt's next president will be faced with a virtually impossible economic situation. And it's a country that in the past three years, has been substantially dependent on borrowing. The external debt jumped from 35 billion (Egyptian pounds) under Mubarak to over 55 billion currently. This continued borrowing only serves deficits in the budget and not income-generating activities. This means with continued political unrest, the economy will continue to suffer a major blow. Any president cannot deliver economic services to the society, which will inevitably continue the cycle of unrest and violence.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.