Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Almost meeting Morsi

Rights activist Nasser Amin and former Egyptian Council for Human Rights chief Mohamed Fayek spent an hour in Almaza Military Airport on the night of 26 July. They were waiting to board an army flight to an unknown destination after their request to visit ousted president Mohamed Morsi was granted. The flight took 15 minutes and the unmarked building they visited looked like an army barracks

Al-Ahram Weekly

How did you arrange for the visit, and why were you selected?

We filed an urgent request to the president of the republic on 21 July to allow us, as a rights delegation, to meet the ousted president to check on the conditions of his detention and his health in accordance with international and local regulations concerning preventive custody. On 26 July at noon the competent authorities informed us of their consent and instructed us to go to Almaza Military Airport. They requested we divulge nothing about the visit until it was over.

When we arrived at the airport officers facilitating our mission took several security measures. They removed mobile phones, watches and any electronic communication devices so as to preclude the use of GPS to determine where Dr Morsi was being held. The chopper that transported us had dark windows. We couldn’t see outside, and the pilot flew in circles after takeoff to make it harder to guess the direction.

As soon as we landed we took a car which also had dark windows. After a few minutes, not more than three, the car stopped in front of a long, single storey building. It looked like an ordinary military installation, like any army barracks.

Security was tight. Those guarding the place were all from the Special Forces or else commandos.


In your report you mentioned that you were not able to see Morsi. Why was that?

On arrival we were met by Refaa Al-Tahtawi, director of the former president’s office. He was wearing a sports outfit which suggests he had no prior knowledge of the visit. After we exchanged a few words we asked to see the deposed president. Al-Tahtawi went into a room to speak to Morsi. The former president must have been very close because we heard him answering, saying that he wasn’t ready to meet anyone today and that he was supposed “to be informed of the matter ahead of time”.

We were told that Asaad Sheikh, manager of the deposed president’s office, was detained in the same place but we didn’t meet him.

It is worth noting that Al-Tahtawi is remaining with Morsi voluntarily whereas Sheikh is held in custody by the army.


What about the detention conditions?

Al-Tahtawi told us that the health of the deposed president was completely stable and that he was taking his medication regularly. We also ascertained that the place has a doctor and a fully equipped clinic though Morsi hasn’t asked the doctor for anything since he arrived. Al-Tahtawi told us Morsi was being treated in an appropriate manner by the officers and that his requests are met rapidly and politely, no questions asked. We asked if Morsi had come under any pressures from the army during the period of his detention. Al-Tahtawi said Morsi hadn’t met any top army officers since 5 July. Those in the place of detention were from the lower ranks.


What about the investigation of Morsi conducted by the prosecution? Does it meet international standards concerning the rights of prisoners?

We were told Morsi was questioned twice by Counsellor Hassan Samir, the investigating judge assigned to the case by the president of the Court of Appeals. The first time was on 16 July, the second on 24 July. It was during the second questioning that the judge ordered 15 days preventive custody. Al-Tahtawi told us the investigating authorities had acted in an appropriate manner and made no attempt to threaten him or force him to say anything specific. Morsi answered almost all of the questions by saying that he was the legitimate head of state, that according to the suspended constitution he had legal immunity and that his questioning required the approval of two-thirds of parliament, could only be undertaken by a parliamentary investigation committee and on camera.


In your report you mentioned that no lawyer for the deposed president was present.

The [current] criminal procedure law doesn’t require a lawyer for the defendant to be present during interrogation though this violates international standards for human rights. The Shura Council, now disbanded, which was under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, refused the demands of human rights activists to change the law and make the presence of a lawyer a condition of investigation. The request was rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Did the deposed president or his escorts have any requests?

Al-Tahtawi was very worried because he hadn’t spoken to his family since 5 July and wanted to call them, which was also true for Morsi. They also requested to be allowed to watch satellite television stations. Currently they are only allowed to watch terrestrial channels which make them feel very isolated.


What did you recommend in your report about the visit?

We recommended in our final report that Morsi be held in a specific and known place to be determined by the investigating authorities, all members of his escort be freed unless they face specific charges, and all of the detainees be allowed to contact their lawyers and families and receive visits.


In the last two years you have visited two deposed Egyptian presidents. Are there any similarities between the two?

Mubarak was held in a prison well known to the public whereas Morsi is being held in a secret location which is not a prison. Both are in a state of complete denial, convinced they remain the legitimate president of Egypt. Both refused to meet our delegation, refusing to talk to a committee. Both sent someone else to talk in their place. Mubarak sent his son Gamal, Morsi sent Al-Tahtawi.


The Western media and some governments repeat claims by Morsi’s supporters that what happened was a coup and not a revolution…

Anyone who thinks that the revolution Egyptians started on 25 January is over is delusional. The 30 June protests were the second wave of the revolution. This second wave has the advantage that the revolutionary forces, the military council, and all other parties — except the Muslim Brotherhood — have learned from the mistakes of the past two years. The return of the military to the scene was not out of a desire for power or because Al-Sisi wants to become president. It is to protect the state and the people and also to restore the army’s popularity after it was shattered by the military council which ruled Egypt after Mubarak.

The presidency is seeking to foster reconciliation between all political groups. What are the chances of this happening?

Reconciliation between political forces is a temporary solution destined to fail. What is required is substantial transitional justice. Reconciliation among political groups is not going to work. We have a society that revolted against Mubarak and his regime and then against the Brotherhood and its regime. The first condition for transitional justice is for the Brotherhood to denounce violence completely, for a ban to be imposed on all religious parties, and for those who committed crimes against the Egyptian people to face trial. The first step forward is to evacuate the public squares.


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