The trial of the century

In the 1990s, I accompanied a group of U.S. federal judges on a tour of Egypt. We managed to pay a visit to the country’s military court, an institution famous to this day for handling troubling political cases with ruthless dispatch. The American judges were surprised by what they saw — a cage to hold ...

MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images
MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images
MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

In the 1990s, I accompanied a group of U.S. federal judges on a tour of Egypt. We managed to pay a visit to the country's military court, an institution famous to this day for handling troubling political cases with ruthless dispatch. The American judges were surprised by what they saw -- a cage to hold the defendants. Such a thing would never be allowed in an American courtroom; for a jury to see the defendant behind bars would be deeply prejudicial.

They were right to be suspicious, but overlooked the real issues. Egypt has no jury trials. Judges, civilian or military, always see defendants held behind bars, and are hardly swayed. But any Egyptian legal observer could have pointed to the real problems: lack of adequate time to prepare, extremely limited rights of appeal, the absence of most procedural guarantees, and a dubious constitutional basis for military trials of civilians.

Read more.

In the 1990s, I accompanied a group of U.S. federal judges on a tour of Egypt. We managed to pay a visit to the country’s military court, an institution famous to this day for handling troubling political cases with ruthless dispatch. The American judges were surprised by what they saw — a cage to hold the defendants. Such a thing would never be allowed in an American courtroom; for a jury to see the defendant behind bars would be deeply prejudicial.

They were right to be suspicious, but overlooked the real issues. Egypt has no jury trials. Judges, civilian or military, always see defendants held behind bars, and are hardly swayed. But any Egyptian legal observer could have pointed to the real problems: lack of adequate time to prepare, extremely limited rights of appeal, the absence of most procedural guarantees, and a dubious constitutional basis for military trials of civilians.

Read more.

 

Nathan J. Brown is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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