Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Inciting chaos

Former diplomat Maasoum Marzouk is denounced from across the political spectrum for adopting the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda, reports Gamal Essam El-Din


Maasoum Marzouk, a former diplomat and a leftist activist, was detained under orders from Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek on 24 August. A statement by the prosecutor-general’s office said Marzouk had been detained for 15 days, alongside six others, pending investigation into charges of collaborating with a terrorist organisation with the aim of harming state institutions.

“Early investigation shows that the seven defendants used satellite television channels affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to incite citizens to organise anti-state demonstrations,” said the statement.

“It was also clear that the defendants were involved in spreading false news about conditions in Egypt in a bid to provoke public opinion and cause unrest.”

University professor Yehia Qazzaz, economist Raed Salama, and activists Nermine Hussein, Amr Mohamed, Abdel-Fattah Said and Sameh Seoudi were detained alongside Marzouk.

On 26 August the daily Al-Ahram reported that early investigation had revealed Hussein and Seoudi were members of the Union of Outcasts, a group founded by the Muslim Brotherhood to use social networks and blogs to incite citizens to demonstrate against the government.

Tarek Al-Awadi, a member of Marzouk’s defence team, says the prosecution has accused Marzouk and his co-defendants of aiding “a terrorist group in achieving its goals and participating in financing it, and participating in a criminal agreement intended to incite people to demonstrate against the state”.

According to Al-Ahram Marzouk, a founder of the leftist Popular Current and the Karama Party, received funds from Al-Madina Trade and Contracting Company, which is owned by fellow defendant Mohamed, to organise anti-regime demonstrations.

“Amr Mohamed was found to be in close contacts with Azmi Bishara, a personal advisor to the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad and political analyst with the Doha-based Al Jazeera Channel. As a result, Mohamed faces accusations of joining a terrorist group trying to spread chaos in the country,” Al-Ahram said.

On 24 August Marzouk’s daughter Maisara said “security forces took my father from our home without explanation.”

“Fifteen plainclothes security personnel arrived at 1am on 23 August and arrested him, then searched his house in 6 October city and took his personal belongings without showing a warrant.”

According to Al-Ahram, Marzouk was detained after the prosecutor-general ordered his arrest after obstaining evidence he had obtained “direct funding” from the Muslim Brotherhood. The group was designated a terrorist organisation in December 2013.

In a statement issued on 5 August Marzouk had called for a public referendum on whether the regime of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi should remain in power. Marzouk went on to call for demonstrations should the regime not accept the people’s demands.

Marzouk also asked opposition groups to hold a “popular conference” in Tahrir Square on 31 August. He is also reported to have called for a transitional presidential council, led by him, to be formed and a 10-year ban on any candidate who had served in government or parliament during the last 10 years.

Marzouk has also issued tweets calling for reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Marzouk’s call for a referendum was not the reason for his detention,” said Al-Ahram. “But investigations showed he had been in close contact with the Muslim Brotherhood and was trying to implement its agenda by causing unrest and spreading chaos.”

Emad Abu Hashem, a judge who joined the Muslim Brotherhood when it was in power in 2012 but who defected from its ranks in early 2018, said in an interview with Sada Al-Balad Channel on 26 August that “the Muslim Brotherhood, still flush with cash from Qatar, has forged a new strategy that aims to rally radical leftist figures” against the regime of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

“Brotherhood-affiliated satellite television channels broadcasting from Turkey and Qatar, as well as the Western media, often describe these radical leftist figures as civil forces,” said Abu Hashem, speaking from Istanbul.

Abu Hashem, who claimed he was close to Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Istanbul, said they had tried to use former chief of military staff Sami Anan to lead the opposition against President Al-Sisi.

“After that failed they chose to use civil figures such as Marzouk and others to call for reconciliation and incite demonstrations. In recent months Marzouk has been a frequent guest on Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated TV channels Mekamleen, Al-Shark, and Al Jazeera where he has tried to mobilise leftists, liberals, academic figures and political activists to oppose the government.”

“This new tactic emerged after Brotherhood leaders lost hope that harsh economic measures would lead people to demonstrate against the regime. The campaign led by moderate Arab states against Qatar and Turkey, and the hostile position towards Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan adopted by the US administration, has left the group in the cold.”

Abu Hashem also revealed that “an Egyptian Revolutionary Council” based in Istanbul had been set up by fugitive Brotherhood leaders in Turkey and charged with funding and implementing the group’s operations in Egypt.

“This council,” he said, “is also tasked with coordinating with figures like Marzouk.”

When Marzouk issued his call for a referendum and for reconciliation earlier this month it triggered a furious reaction in leftist and Nasserist circles. The Karama Party, led by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, denounced Marzouk’s calls as “a disreputable initiative”.

“We strongly condemn this ill-famed initiative,” said the party.

Leftist MP Kamal Ahmed told Al-Ahram Weekly it was worrying that some leftists still appeared willing to act as pawns for the Brotherhood.

“They did this when Morsi was in power and they apologised when he was ousted,” said Ahmed.

“What Marzouk’s calls show is that he remains wedded to an obsolete revolutionary jargon that can only lead to chaos and disintegration.

“His calls for the constitution to be abandoned and an interim presidential council to be formed are options the public reject. People want a period of stability to help the national economy recover and maintain national security.”

Alaa Abed, head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee, says Marzouk “directed insults at the Supreme Constitutional Court, parliament and the army” but was arrested “only after security forces received information that he was deeply involved in financial activities with the Muslim Brotherhood”.

The Civil Democratic Movement, a group of leftist and liberal parties and public figures established in December 2017, held a meeting on Monday which condemned the detentions and accused the state of using government-owned media to systematically defame all opponents.

A statement issued by the movement called for the immediate release of the seven detainees and all other opposition activists being held without having been convicted of acts of violence or terrorism. It also called for “unconstitutional laws” that prohibit freedom of thought and expression and the right to assembly to be abolished.

Marzouk, who left the Karama Party to form the People’s Democratic Party, served as Egypt’s ambassador to Uganda, Finland and Estonia and as an assistant minister of foreign affairs under Hosni Mubarak.

He failed to collect the 25,000 recommendations needed to make it on to the ballot paper for the 2018 presidential election.

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