Followers of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood cling to the belief that one of their leaders, Mohamed Morsi, who goes on trial Monday for inciting murder, will be vindicated and restored to office as the country's president.
But how far are they willing to go to make sure this happens and to resist the military authority's crackdown on their organization? Just ask Mehanna Abu Khodeir. The 51-year-old agricultural engineer was the father of five children – all boys – until two months ago.
On Aug. 18, his second-oldest son, Ali, a medical student at the 1,000-year-old al Azhar University in Cairo, perished in particularly horrible circumstances.
I sat down with Mr. Abu Khodeir at his home in a farming village outside Mansoura in the centre of the verdant Nile delta 120 km north of Cairo. The village – a cluster of mostly three-storey brick houses – is built between one of the many canals that distribute the Nile's water to the flat green fields of newly-planted winter wheat.
Gaggles of school girls walking home clog the road into the village as we arrive. They are unused to parting so that a car can drive by. Those in the village, such as Mr. Abu Khodeir, who work in Mansoura, use a network of minibuses to travel the hour in and out of the city.
The Abu Khodeir home looks much like the others: The outside of its ground floor has been coated with concrete and painted white; its two upper floors are made of bare red brick. Unlike the others, this house has two large posters above the door – one of the smiling 19-year-old face of Ali, the other of one of his closest friends. Both died that day in August.
Mr. Abu Khodeir, in a simple pale green galabia, greets us on the terrace. We remove our shoes outside the front door and take seats in the room just inside. The home is immaculately clean – many must have come by recently to offer condolences. Omar, Mr. Abu Khodeir's 14-year-old son, brings in a tray of cold drinks and chocolate wafers, then sits and joins us, listening intently. Ten-year-old Bilal tears himself away from cartoons on the TV in the next room and curls up in one of the other chairs.
Through my interpreter, Asmaa, Mr. Bilal tells Ali's story.
In the weeks following the army's overthrow of the Morsi administration on July 3, Ali spent a great deal of time at the protest camp the Muslim Brotherhood set up outside the Rabaa al-Adaweya mosque in a relatively new part of Cairo called Nasser City. Thousands of people were there night and day, showing their rejection of the army's action and calling for the release of Mr. Morsi and the hundreds of other senior Brotherhood people who had been arrested.
As a second-year med student, Ali had volunteered in one of the camp's clinics.
On Wednesday, Aug. 14, the army made good on its threat and moved on the camp forcibly removing the protesters. Hundreds were killed in the one-sided battle.
Mr. Abu Khodeir and his wife had heard the news and worried about their son.
"On the first day of the [army's] suppression, we heard nothing from Ali and were very anxious," he said calmly. "On the second day, he called. He had been arrested and was being held with many others in a stadium near Rabaa Square."
"We were relieved," he said. "We had seen the pictures of so many people being beaten and killed."
The following day, a friend of Ali's called and told them Ali and others were being investigated at a prosecutor's office in suburban Cairo. Two days later, the friend reported that Ali had been convicted of an unknown charge and sentenced to 15 days in jail. He was going to be taken to the prison shortly. He would never arrive.
"That night, we saw on al-Jazeera that a truck full of prisoners had died, had suffocated," said Mr. Abu Khodeir, "and Ali's name was on the list of those prisoners."
"They fired tear gas into the truck," exclaimed his angry father.
Some news reports said that the prisoners had tried to escape; some said they had taken a guard hostage. The bottom line was that 36 prisoners, mostly young men, locked inside a police cube truck had been asphyxiated from tear gas.
Another day passed before Mr. Abu Khodeir was allowed to see his son's body.
"When I went into the morgue I was stunned at what I saw: On the floor, there were two lines of bodies on both sides of the room," he said. "It was terrible. I couldn't recognize my own son."
"I told them Ali wasn't there. They had to point him out to me."
"His face was black and his chest all puffed out. There was a long cut down here," he said, motioning down his sternum. "They had done an autopsy and sewn him up."
"Ali was courageous," Mr. Abu Khodeir said. "I am very proud of him."
"I know he was happy to die as a martyr," he said. "I am happy for that."
Mr. Abu Khodeir says he blames Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for his son's death and the deaths of the hundreds killed those days in what the Brotherhood calls a massacre.
"Sisi must never become president," Mr. Abu Khodeir said. "He's a killer."
I ask this grieving father if he thinks that members of the Brotherhood will now turn to violence.
"No," he replied. "Violence is not in the methodology of the Muslim Brotherhood. The members have been told to remain peaceful."
"Violence only leads to more violence," he explained. To which his son Omar added "like in Syria."
"Yes," his father said, smiling, "like in Syria."
"I then asked Mr. Abu Khodeir if he would be willing to sacrifice another of his sons in support of the Brotherhood's cause.
He paused only slightly.
"Freedom is very expensive," he said, "very costly. It is not granted to you. You must fight for it. Look at Europe."
"We will ask God that we not face such a decision but, yes, I would be willing to sacrifice another son."
Neither the attentive 14-year-old Omar, nor 10-year-old Bilal batted an eye. They simply stared straight ahead.