Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

30 June: Two years on

Egypt marked the second anniversary of the 30 June Revolution amid fears the country is entering a new cycle of violence. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Egyptians turned out in millions on 30 June 2013 to protest against the rule of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Three days later Morsi was removed from office. His ouster was met with a wave of violence. Terrorist attacks spread across the country and a police crackdown saw hundreds of Muslim Brothers referred to trial.

While political analysts and security experts say security and stability has improved over the last two years, events this week have served as a reminder Egypt has some way to go before it can claim it has the post-Morsi wave of terrorism and violence.

On Monday Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat died following a bomb attack on his motorcade. Barakat’s assassination is a blow to Egypt’s security apparatus and has cast doubts on the strategies it has adopted to counter terrorism.

A group calling itself the Giza Popular Resistance Movement said it was behind the attack. The group’s claims have been dismissed by security experts.

The attack, says Khaled Okasha, director of the National Centre for Security Studies, bears all the hallmarks of the Sinai-based militant group of Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or of Agnad Masr (Soldiers of Egypt), a terrorist group widely thought to operate as an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Both groups have used car bombs before to target officials and destroy security buildings,” says Okasha. “Typically, they use large amounts of explosives to cause as much damage as possible.”

In a statement on Monday the State Information Service (SIS) accused the Muslim Brotherhood of planning the assassination of Barakat.

“The murder of Barakat is an extension of the group’s long record of crimes against judges which began in 1948 and includes the murder of three judges in Al-Arish last May,” said SIS.

“The successful targeting of the general prosecutor should ring alarm bells about security conditions,” says Okasha. “Egypt has managed to stem the tide of violence and terrorism that followed Morsi’s ouster but the assassination of Barakat shows security gaps still exist.”

“We must ask why the security forces were clearly inadequately mobilised ahead of the 30 June anniversary. How was it possible for this kind of bomb to be planted in the residential district of Heliopolis, close to Barakat’s home?”

“Egypt has recovered much of its political stability in recent months but the chaos in neighbouring countries like Libya, and slightly further afield, in Syria and Iraq, leaves us vulnerable to terrorist infiltration,” says Al-Ahram political analyst Hassan Abu Taleb.

Okasha warns “the successful murder of Barakat might embolden the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies to mount more serious attacks”.

“They want to spread terror among officials and ordinary citizens alike, sending a message that they are able to strike anywhere in Egypt.”  

Salah Eissa, a political analyst, warns against allowing the latest round of violence to derail the completion of Egypt’s post-30 June political roadmap.

“Over the last two years Egypt was able to pass a new constitution and elect a president. Both steps were taken in the face of violence and escalating tensions. We must now go ahead and hold parliamentary elections. We must not be intimidated,” says Eissa.

“If the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies sense we are intimidated they will step up their attacks.”

Egypt’s endorsed a new constitution on18 January, 2014. Four months later army chief Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi was elected as president. During his election campaign Al-Sisi had vowed there would be no reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The assassination of Egypt’s top prosecutor by the Brotherhood shows clearly that Al-Sisi’s strategy of no tolerance towards the group is the only possible position to take,” says Abu Taleb

“The Brotherhood, which seeks to portray itself as moderate, has repeatedly shown the only language it understands is the language of force. The ideology of these terrorist groups, beginning with the Brotherhood and ending with IS, is based on retribution and confrontation. They offer just two options: either we will rule you and you bow to our jihadist ideology, or we will kill you.”

During a TV interview Lawyers’ Syndicate Chairman Sameh Ashour insisted Egypt was facing an existential crisis. “Either we live, and terrorism is defeated, or the Muslim Brotherhood lives and terrorism triumphs,” he said.

Ashour argued parliamentary elections must now be held as soon as possible.

“A new parliament in place will help in defeating the terrorists by putting the country squarely on the road to democracy.”

As he left Barakat’s military funeral on Tuesday, Al-Sisi said “the assassination of the prosecutor-general shows how determined our enemies are to silence the voice of judges”.

He vowed to amend laws within days to ensure “rapid justice” against militants.

“Swift justice is chained to laws,” Al-Sisi said, promising to amend criminal law provisions to “confront the developments we are facing”.

“We need to make changes to ensure that justice is achieved in the swiftest possible time.”

In the absence of parliament Al-Sisi wields legislative authority.

Noting that until now “not a single exceptional measure has been taken”,  Al-Sisi said Egypt could no longer afford to wait for years to prosecute militants who give orders for their deadly attacks “from inside their [prison] cages,” a thinly veiled reference to jailed Brotherhood leaders.

“If a death sentence or a life term is handed down it will be implemented,” he said.

A convoluted appeals process means it can take years for a final verdict to be handed down.

“The law in its current form allows trials continue for a long time, giving defendants the right to appeal verdicts twice,” says former prosecutor Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud. “Not one final verdict has been passed against Muslim Brotherhood officials referred to trial. Yet in the meantime the prosecutor-general and three judges have been killed.”  

Legal experts say the Criminal Procedures Law, passed in 1937, will have to be amended to cut trials short.

Al-Sisi led a procession of hundreds of state and army officials at Barakat’s funeral. Pro-government media hailed Barakat as a “hero” and “martyr” and television schedules were suspended to show footage of the funeral and images of Monday’s bombing and its aftermath.

 Security has been boosted across Cairo, with armoured personnel carriers positioned on main roads and additional checkpoints set up.

Though 30 June had been declared a national holiday official celebrations were hastily cancelled in a sign of mourning for Barakat.

The day of Barakat’s funeral was also marred by violence. A bomb blast close to a police station in Sixth of October city killed three people.

In the northern Sinai city of Sheikh Zuweid a mortar shell, allegedly fired by extremists at an army position, fell on a private residence killing two children and wounding three others. In Beni Sweif security officials said gunmen opened fire on a police car, killing a sergeant and wounding four others.

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