Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Rules of engagement

How will Al-Sisi’s demands for a mandate to crackdown on terrorism play out when it comes to dispersing pro-Morsi sit-ins? Ahmed Morsy reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

“The police are executing the mission assigned to them by the people according to the dictates of national interest, duty and the law.” So proclaimed Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim on Sunday, making more than a passive nod to Friday’s demonstrations — called for by army chief Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi — that are supposed to “mandate” security forces to confront “probable violence and terrorism”.

Unfortunately, as activist and lawyer Nasser Amin points out, nobody has bothered to clarify what this “probable terrorism” might be.

“It should have been clearly defined to avoid everyone interpreting the word according to his political inclination. Practically, there is no precise definition of terrorism and there is no crime in law called terrorism,” Nasser told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“It would have been better to use the phrase terrorist acts instead of the absolute term terrorism. That at least might have militated against further polarisation and the fanning of hatred.”

The mandate Al-Sisi was seeking, says Major General Fouad Allam, security expert and former deputy director of State Security Apparatus, was against potential terrorist acts, “the bomb that exploded at the Daqahliya security directorate in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura last week, for instance; violent acts in various governorates related to pro-Mohamed Morsi protests, the closing of 6 October flyover and streets in Cairo and Giza due to pro-Morsi sit-ins, and certainly ongoing terrorist attacks in Sinai.”

“Every day roads and railway lines are being blocked by protesters demanding Morsi’s reinstatement. There are endless violent attacks,” military expert Hossam Sweilam told the Weekly.

In the past week, violence between opposing groups has left dozens dead and hundreds injured. Since Morsi’s overthrow his supporters and opponents have frequently faced off, and all too often the ensuing clashes have involved firearms and other weapons.

“Security operations, crackdowns and ambushes will target outlaws,” says Allam. “Soon the people will witness the stability and peace these operations will bring.”

While these operations will comprise coordinated police and army actions, Allam provided no further details so as “not to let the lawbreakers benefit from such information”.

According to Interior Minister Ibrahim, a “surprise” will soon be revealed in Sinai which has seen almost daily attacks against security forces since the ousting of Morsi and where over 20 policemen and soldiers have been killed.

At a press conference on Saturday Ibrahim also said that pro-Morsi sit-ins will be “dealt with soon”. The police, he added, need a legal justification to disperse the sit-ins, and any action will be determined by the decision of the prosecutor-general who has been examining complaints filed by residents of Giza and Nasr City where large pro-Morsi sit-ins are located.

Residents of Giza’s Al-Nahda Square and Nasr City’s Rabaa Al-Adaweya have petitioned the prosecutor-general to end the month long occupation of their districts, complaining of blocked roads, harassment of residents and the use of fireworks and loudspeakers at night. The squares’ occupiers, they say, trespass and sleep in building entrances, and endlessly demand access to rooftops.

“The remedy is simple. Compliance with the law is the solution,” Abdel-Rahim Ali, director of the Arab Centre for Research and Studies and an expert on Islamist movements, told the Weekly.

“If the law allows sit-ins it must be respected and the occupiers cannot be dispersed by force,” Ali said. “Halting traffic and causing harm to residents, on the other hand, are clearly unlawful, and action should be taken to prevent them happening.” But that action, warns Ali, must itself be lawful if it is to contribute to the solution of existing problems rather than their exacerbation.”

Ibrahim, clearly conscious of the need for legal cover, was vague over the timing of any attempts to disperse the sit-ins. “Soon,” he said, “once the prosecution takes its decision.” He added that discussions between the police and the Armed Forces were already underway to formulate a strategy that will allow protesters to be dispersed with minimal casualties. 

“The police and army will warn the demonstrators to disperse before taking any action. If they do not respond to the requests then the sit-ins will be dispersed by force,” says Sweilam. The latter scenario, he warns, will inevitably bring casualties but “that is the price to be paid to prevent Egypt becoming lawless.”

He adds that during any forced dispersal “Islamist leaders have to be the first to be arrested.”

Retired Brigadier General Safwat Al-Zayat, a military expert who has branded the 30 June Revolution as a military coup, warned Al-Sisi against the use of force.

“These sit-ins comprise Egyptians expressing their opinions and cannot be dealt with violently,” Al-Zayat said in a televised interview.

 

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