TAMARA KEITH, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Tamara Keith in for Scott Simon. This week marked the one-year anniversary of the military coup that overthrew Egypt's president, Mohammed Morsi. Since then, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the man who orchestrated that coup, has been elected president. The overthrow was widely supported by Egyptians, but what's followed has been a time of intense repression in the country. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Cairo. Hi, Leila.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Hi.
KEITH: Leila, how much has changed in the last year?
FADEL: A lot has changed. Morsi, who was the president a year ago, disappeared, reappeared on trial in four separate cases including cases like espionage - cases that the human rights group say are pretty ridiculous. His Muslim Brotherhood, which was elected to power, was riding this wave coming into its own - has not only been ousted but banned, deemed a terrorist organization and really hunted. The state blames them for violence like blasts that have ripped through the capital and other parts of the country, which of course, they deny. And the Brotherhood leadership is in jail.
Today the supreme leader of the Brotherhood - basically the guy in charge, Mohammed Badie - was given another sentence - a life sentence after already being sentenced to death twice. Meanwhile, the former military chief who overthrew Morsi at the behest of the people is now firmly in charge. And analysts say he kind of has the authoritarian tendencies of the past.
KEITH: But it's not just the Muslim Brotherhood being jailed, right?
FADEL: No, now it seems like anyone who criticizes the state is being put in jail. That includes journalists, human rights defenders, critics of the state. Last month, just two weeks ago, three Al-Jazeera English journalists - Mohamed Fahmy who's Egyptian-Canadian, Peter Greste, an Australian journalist, and Baher Mohamed who's Egyptian - were given shockingly harsh sentences - two 7 years and one 10 years after being tried. And there was no evidence really presented of a crime. They were accused of aiding terrorists, but the evidence presented in court were things like family pictures and notebooks, pictures of horses grazing for a package by another channel or a story by another channel. And this is just one high profile case. Thousands of people characterized as political prisoners are languishing in jail. The young activists who were the face of the 2011 revolution against Mubarak, they're silent now, scared, or they're in jail. And most recently some of those activists who were protesting a law that basically bans protesting were put in jail - about two dozen. And they have a trial date in September, meaning they'll sit there for months.
KEITH: And yet despite all this, is Sisi still a popular figure?
FADEL: Yeah, he is a popular figure. The military is seen as the most trusted institution in Egypt. He comes from that institution. He was elected in an election that maybe wasn't really fair, but it wasn't rigged in a wide scale manner. He was voted in with more than 95 percent of the votes here. But it's an election that took place in an atmosphere of fear, where you're basically with us or against us. And if you're against us, the idea of against us lands you in jail.
KEITH: What are the challenges that he faces?
FADEL: The biggest challenge he' got is the economy - the foundering economy. Egypt is in debt and needs to dig itself out of that hole. And there are constant power cuts going on right now in the soaring summer heat. And the way he's doing that is lifting the subsidies, which take a huge part of the budget. But that will also possibly lead to protests against him, possibly, because that means people are going to be paying higher gas prices, which have already been lifted, and higher food prices.
KEITH: NPR's Cairo Bureau Chief, Leila Fadel. Thanks so much.
FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.