Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1158, (25 - 31 July 2013)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1158, (25 - 31 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

War of attrition

Despite calls for national reconciliation the military-backed government is continuing its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Newly-appointed Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi’s government may insist national reconciliation tops its agenda but that has not prevented it from endorsing a crackdown against leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

According to Al-Ahram of 22 July, Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat ordered Morsi be placed in custody for 15 days pending investigation into charges of spying, inciting violence and spreading chaos.

“The order came after Barakat listened to four telephone calls Morsi made with American and Brotherhood officials hours before his ouster on 3 July,” the paper alleged.

Mustafa Bakri, editor of the weekly Al-Osbou and known to be close to the military, claims investigative judge Hassan Samir, appointed by the Justice Ministry last week, has already begun interrogating Morsi.

“Samir met Morsi three times in the military compound where he is being held and confronted him with the accusations levelled against him, including evidence held by national security agencies showing Morsi had spied for the United States, the oil-rich Arab Gulf state of Qatar, and the Palestinian movement of Hamas,” claimed Bakri.

Bakri fingered US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson as playing a central role in coordinating secret contacts between Morsi and senior CIA officers seeking to gather information about Egyptian national security. Bakri also charges that intelligence agencies believe Morsi provided classified information about the Egyptian army to the US, Qatar, Turkey and the International Organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“As president of the republic Morsi was entitled to receive classified national security reports which he and his former foreign affairs adviser Essam Al-Haddad leaked to foreign capitals and the Muslim Brotherhood,” claims Bakri.

The opposition group Tamarod, which led the 30 June Revolution that eventually ousted Morsi on 3 July, said on Sunday that it had received information that Morsi had been questioned recently. 

Other press reports quote Samir saying he is still in the process of reviewing complaints levelled against Morsi and as yet no decision has been taken about whether the former president should be detained. 

Samir’s job is confined to reviewing the Ismailia Appeals Court ruling issued on 23 June that recommended Morsi and 33 other Brotherhood officials be investigated on charges of spying and of instigating contacts with foreign elements during the early days of the 25 January Revolution to encourage them to spread chaos by storming prisons, torching police stations and killing Egyptian citizens.

Mahmoud Kibiesh, Cairo University professor of criminal law, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “most press reports published about alleged Muslim Brotherhood crimes are politicised and reflect what anti-Morsi writers want rather than facts on the ground”. Kibiesh recommends leaving “the whole matter to prosecution authorities” and warns “pressure from the anti-Morsi media could lead to Brotherhood leaders being sent to trial on flimsy grounds and without sufficient evidence.”

Military spokesman Major General Ahmed Ali denied Al-Ahram’s 22 July claims that Morsi had been placed in custody.

“Al-Ahram’s headline was published at a very sensitive time and aimed to incite public opinion,” said Ali. Al-Ahram’s Monday headline, appearing hours before protests planned by the Muslim Brotherhood which left nine dead and 70 injured, claimed the “prosecutor-general orders Morsi be imprisoned for 15 days”.

Following the cabinet’s first meeting on Sunday commander-in-chief and Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi was quoted as saying “we have to be patient with protesters stationed at Rabaa Al-Adaweya [site of pro-Morsi demonstrations].” Yet just a few hours later the army’s website warned “patience with protests at Rabaa Al-Adaweya has begun to run out and the hour of confrontation is drawing closer.”

Bakri also warned “patience has its limits and once the holy month of Ramadan comes to a close a new strategy towards Brotherhood protests will be adopted and they will be prevented from blocking roads or organising sit-ins.”

Brotherhood leaders continue to insist protests will end only when Morsi returns to office. Essam Al-Erian, the group’s former parliamentary spokesman, accused the media of spreading lies about the group. “The objective of our street protests is to combat these lies and directly access ordinary citizens,” said Al-Erian.

Al-Beblawi told Egyptian state TV on Saturday that “the government is not against peaceful protests but it cannot allow disruption of traffic and the use of violence during these protests to continue indefinitely.”

Political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan told Al-Ahram Weekly that “the newly-appointed government has stipulated that the road to national reconciliation begins by renouncing violence and refraining from participation in violent acts aimed at disrupting traffic or engaging ordinary citizens in violent clashes.”

“This stipulation means the Muslim Brotherhood is effectively excluded from any reconciliation dialogue since its resumption of violent protests on 22 July.”

“Ordering the arrest of most Brotherhood leaders while at the same time making calls for national reconciliation shows that the authorities are intent on tightening the grip on the Brotherhood,” argues Hassan.

“The government is moving against the group on two fronts: issuing orders for the arrest of its leaders and also examining the feasibility of dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Newly-appointed Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed Al-Boraai announced on Monday that any decision on dissolving the group will depend on the results of investigation by prosecution authorities into allegations that the Brotherhood runs armed militias and used them to kill eight citizens in front of the group’s headquarters on 30 June.

Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood supporters continue to organise protests under the slogan “Return to Legitimacy”. On Monday protesters blocked Ramses Street and clashed with Tahrir Square anti-Morsi activists, killing one.

“In the face of a government crackdown on its leaders the Brotherhood has embarked on a war of attrition against the new 30 June regime,” says Ammar. “The first stage of this war includes violent protests, clashes with the army and police and blocking vital roads. It could escalate into another stage, including suicide attacks and an attempt to drag the country into a Syria-style civil war.”

During its violent protests in downtown Cairo on 22 July Brotherhood protesters distributed leaflets urging citizens “to reject the military coup, preserve the Egyptian army, and prevent the country from falling into chaos and the unknown”.

The wave of deadly attacks against the police and army that has swamped north Sinai since Morsi’s ouster, warns Ammar, could be a taste of things to come.

On 20 July prosecution authorities ordered the arrest of Mohamed Badie, the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood; Essam Al-Erian, former Brotherhood spokesman; Mohamed Al-Beltagui, former chief of the Brotherhood’s Cairo office and Brotherhood cleric Safwat Hegazi. All are charged with instigating the clashes in Ramses Square on 15 July which left seven dead and hundreds injured. Reports prepared by the National Security Apparatus (NSA) cite protesters saying they were paid amounts ranging from LE500 to LE1,000 in return for disrupting traffic in Ramses Square and spreading chaos. The NSA report claims rabble rousers met with Brotherhood leaders in a room annexed to Rabaa Al-Adaweya Mosque where they received money to hire thugs.

Giza prosecution authorities have ordered the arrest of six Brotherhood leaders, including former minister of supply and internal trade Bassem Ouda and former Brotherhood MP Azab Mustafa, for allegedly inciting violence in Giza Square which left seven dead, including an army officer, and tens injured. Prosecution authorities say Brotherhood protesters opened fire on passers-by with automatic rifles.

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