Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s prosecutor-general assassinated

Calls inciting violence against state officials and others came home to roost in this week’s assassination of Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat, writes Amany Maged

Al-Ahram Weekly

After 67 years, the Muslim Brotherhood group now seems to have reverted to its policy of assassinations.

In 1948, members of the group’s secret apparatus shot and killed judge Ahmed Al-Khazindar for having handed down a prison sentence against one of its members. Last Monday, Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat was assassinated when his motorcade was hit by a bomb blast in the Heliopolis district of Cairo where he lived.

Two civilians and two police officers were also injured in the attack, carried out when a bomb in a parked car was remotely detonated as Barakat’s motorcade left his home. The bomb shattered glass in nearby storefronts and homes, and Barakat’s assassination took place on the eve of the second anniversary of the 30 June Revolution.

It also came just three months after three state prosecutors were shot in Al-Arish following the sentencing of Mohammed Morsi and fellow Muslim Brotherhood defendants in an espionage case.

A movement calling itself the “Popular Resistance in Giza” claimed responsibility for Monday’s terrorist attack, but experts are sceptical as the operation was clearly well planned. They are inclined to suspect that the Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis  group, which declared its affiliation to the Islamic State (IS) group last year, is responsible. If so, this would constitute a qualitative development in Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis operations as it would signify that the group has expanded its activities beyond Sinai into the heart of the capital.

Barakat’s assassination elicited widespread condemnation domestically, in the Arab world and internationally. Yet, some writers in the foreign media took a different attitude. The UK newspaper The Guardian described the late chief prosecutor as a “figure of hate for the opposition because he, as chief prosecutor, enabled the detention of tens of thousands of government critics,” adding that among the controversial prosecutions Barakat had pursued several had resulted in death sentences for hundreds of alleged Morsi supporters.

In Egypt, around a hundred political figures blamed the US for the assassination because of what they claimed has been Washington’s laxness towards extremist and terrorist groups. They called for a boycott of countries that support terrorist and extremist religious groups and urged the government to declare a “general public mobilisation” against terrorism.

Severely condemning the attack, the Alexandria-based Salafist Call group said that all who contemplate recourse to bloodshed on the pretext of deterrence or revenge should refer to Islamic Law which holds life sacred and prohibits the sowing of strife. They should also refer to history, which will inform them how such acts have historically caused misery from which the Islamic world still suffers today while achieving nothing but the opposite of their intended results.

The Muslim Brotherhood issued a formal condemnation of the assassination and reiterated its opposition to such acts. It then laid the blame on the Egyptian authorities. In a statement posted on its official Facebook page, the organisation wrote that “the negative developments that are occurring in Egypt, the latest being the targeting of the prosecutor-general, are the fault of the authorities that laid the foundations for violence and led Egypt from a promising democratic experiment to the realm of mass murder, violence and bloodshed.”

Following an affirmation of the organisation’s rejection of murder and violence, the statement went on to say that the current conditions in Egypt had “surpassed all bounds” and that “the only way to halt the bloodshed is to break the military coup and empower the revolution.”

The statement, signed by Brotherhood press officer Mohamed Montasser, continued by saying that “the violence and killing that the public prosecutor systematised by facilitating murder, arrest, slow death in prison, torture, arbitrary arrest, long terms of preventive detention, abductions and forced disappearances have created tens of thousands of oppressed. The only way to end this violence is through the establishment of justice and removing the authorities that are committing crimes against the nation.”

Ahmed Al-Mugheir, known as Brotherhood deputy supreme guide Khairat Al-Shater’s right-hand man, vowed that Barakat’s replacement would meet the same fate. “To the next public prosecutor: your booby-trapped car is waiting for you,” he declared as he celebrated the assassination of Barakat and warned of the assassinations of other officials.

Hani Al-Sabaei, a takfirist leader, expressed similar sentiments. “We rejoice and pray to God in gratitude whenever an Egyptian public prosecutor is wounded or killed,” he wrote from his refuge in London. He also lauded the youths of the Muslim Brotherhood for carrying out the operation instead of fleeing the country like the group’s leaders.

Sheikh Essam Talima, former director of Brotherhood preacher Youssef Al-Qaradawi’s office, merely remarked on his personal Facebook page that “the judge on earth has moved to the judge in the heavens.” Al-Qaradawi himself tweeted that “the prosecutor-general reaped what he sowed.”

Mohammed Morsi’s son tweeted that “we applaud the assassination of the prosecutor-general. Almighty God takes His time but He does not neglect. Right must emerge victorious. This is the reward for the judges of the coup.”

Tarek Mahmoud, secretary-general of the Long live Egypt support fund, responded to that tweet on Monday by filing a suit against Ahmed Morsi accusing him of complicity in the assassination of Barakat.

Many analysts have suggested that the crime was the direct result of Muslim Brotherhood incitement to violence against judges and journalists. For the second time in less than a month, a group calling itself the “ulema of the Muslim nation” issued a statement inciting violence in response to the death sentences handed down to Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

In their previous statement in May, called a first “Call to Egypt,” these Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters sought to provoke violence against the grand imam of Al-Azhar, judges and journalists on the grounds that the rulings against Morsi were invalid.

In an interview with the press, Kamal Habib, a researcher on the Islamist movements, said that “we expected a major terrorist operation at this time, especially after the failed terrorist attack in Luxor and also in the light of the terrorist attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait.”

Experts now fear that the criminal attack on Monday may augur a wave of political assassinations and have urged the authorities to respond forcefully by bringing the perpetrators to account before military courts and taking all necessary precautionary measures.

A new phase of political assassinations would cast Egypt back to the 1980s and 1990s, they have warned, adding that terrorism could have begun to stake out a new battleground in Egypt.

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