The second anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, and the first under Muslim Brotherhood rule, was never going to pass peacefully. Nationwide, pro-democracy demonstrations were planned in protest at undemocratic decrees and increased police brutality under the current government, and the general lack of progress made in meeting the demands of the revolution raised two years earlier.
In the Canal Zone cities of Suez, Ismailiyya and Port Said, it was marked by protests and battles between civilians and police, and a state of emergency was declared on 28 January. (...) The court announcement on 26 January, effectively sentencing twenty-one young men to death, shook Egypt, not only because of the severity of the sentence, but also because of the numerous question marks associated with the trial itself. (...) Yet despite worldwide news coverage of the announcement (often misstating the result as a verdict) and of the subsequent funerals, there has been almost no mention of the actual proceedings of the trial itself. (...)
The announcement made by presiding judge Sobhi Abd al-Magid led to rapturous celebrations outside Al-Ahly Club’s Cairo headquarters, by Ultras Ahlawy fans (...). However, the announcement is neither a verdict nor an ultimate conclusion to the case.
Fifty-four defendants remain, including nine security officials on trial for “assisting with murder.” The final verdict, including any potential convictions, will be issued on 9 March. In fact, Judge Abd al-Magid’s announcement simply states that the Port Said Criminal Court has petitioned the Grand Mufti for his ruling on a potential verdict sentencing to death the first twenty-one individuals tried.
Under Article 381 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the only law cited in the announcement, all capital convictions must be submitted to the Grand Mufti for approval, who has ten days to respond. Even if the Grand Mufti advises commutation, he does not possess any judicial power, and the convictions may still ultimately be carried out, although serious questions of legitimacy may then arise. It is important to note that more than three weeks later, no response has yet been issued. Adding to the atmosphere of confusion, a new Grand Mufti was recently elected, and is due to take up his position in March, roughly around the time the final verdict is due. Whatever the Mufti’s response, there is no doubt that the Court’s final verdict shall be appealed.