Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

In place of strife?

Initiatives seeking to drag Egypt out of political crisis are turning into damp squibs, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

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Al-Ahram Weekly

On 25 July firebrand Muslim Brotherhood preacher Safwat Hegazi told pro-Mohamed Morsi protesters at Rabaa Al-Adaweya that “tomorrow, Friday, Egypt will witness a shocking event the results of which will be clear on Saturday.”
“On Sunday,” he went on to predict, “Morsi will be back in his office as the legitimate president of Egypt.”
Hegazi’s soothsaying was partly right. On Friday night, into the early hours of Saturday, Egypt saw its bloodiest scenes for two years. More than 80 Morsi supporters were killed and hundreds injured. Morsi was not, however, back in his office on Sunday.
As Hegazi was delivering his fiery speech, investigative judge Hassan Samir was ordering Morsi to be detained in custody for 15 days pending investigations into charges of spying for the Palestinian Hamas movement, inciting violence and spreading chaos.
Mustafa Bakri, editor of the weekly Al-Osbou and known to be close to the military, claims “Morsi faced four sessions of questioning by judge Samir, the last of which was on Friday 26 July.”
“In all of these sessions Morsi looked nervous, angrily denying the charges,” Bakri told Al-Ahram Weekly. “Morsi insisted that he is still the legitimate president of Egypt and that under the 2012 constitution he is immune to any kind of investigation.”
Less inflammatory sources than Bakri say Morsi was questioned twice, responding to most questions with the assertion that he remained Egypt’s president and could therefore be interrogated only by a special parliamentary committee.
Prosecution spokesman Adel Al-Said told a press conference this week that Morsi faces several possible lawsuits, including one filed by the 6 April movement accusing the former president of “conspiring to kill peaceful protesters who demonstrated in front of Al-Ittihadiya palace following his controversial constitutional declaration last November”. Other lawsuits, added Al-Said, accuse Morsi of inciting violence against protesters near Cairo University on 5 July.
“President Morsi is as steadfast and stable as a mountain,” Hegazi told the Rabaa Al-Adaweya rally. “He will never waive his legitimacy because he has become a symbol of Islamist nationhood.”
“Once his whereabouts becomes public we will march to set him free. We will escalate our actions if they refuse to announce where he is. We will sacrifice our souls to bring him back to the presidential palace.”
Brotherhood and Hamas leaders insist that all charges against Morsi are politically motivated.
“Morsi is about to become mired in the same scenario as Hosni Mubarak,” says political science professor Gamal Zahran. “Like Mubarak he will find himself bogged down in a series of trials and retrials the aim of which is to keep him in jail indefinitely.”
The military-backed government’s crackdown on Morsi and leading Brotherhood officials, Zahran argues, signals a determination to escalate the crisis despite repeated initiatives for a solution and appeals from the European Union and the US to step back from the brink. “Speeches by hardline Brotherhood officials like Hegazi,” he adds, “serve to pour oil on fire and raise the spectre of bloody confrontation.”
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim has already warned that the month-long Brotherhood sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweya district of Nasr City and Al-Nahda Square in Giza will be dealt with “very soon”.
“We are in complete coordination with the army. We just need legal cover to break up the sit-ins,” said Ibrahim, adding that Brotherhood leaders would be arrested in the process.
The Weekly went to press amid a flurry of rumours that Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat was about to issue orders for police and military forces to disperse the Brotherhood’s sit-ins.
In an extraordinary meeting on 28 July the National Defence Council unanimously recommended the two protests in support of Morsi be ended.
“These sit-ins have become a threat to national security,” the chief of General Intelligence was quoted as saying during the meeting.
The prospects for confrontation intensified this week when European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton failed to bring the two parties to the table during her two-day visit to Egypt.  
Meeting with Ashton on Monday representatives of anti-Morsi revolutionary movements rejected any “safe exit” for Brotherhood leaders. Mahmoud Badr, the founder of the Tamarod movement which spearheaded the 30 June Revolution against Morsi, insisted “Brotherhood leaders who have incited violence and issued calls to foment chaos in recent weeks be investigated and brought to justice.”
Founder of the 6 April movement Ahmed Maher told Ashton, “what happened in Egypt on 30 June was a revolution... Brotherhood leaders must respect the popular will and refrain from embracing violence and disrupting the political roadmap”.
Presidential spokesman Ahmed Al-Muslemani stressed that “Brotherhood officials who renounce violence and refuse to resort to violence can easily be integrated into political life” while those who face accusations “will be brought to justice”.
In a joint press conference with Ashton, Vice President Mohamed Al-Baradei stressed that “Morsi failed and cannot join the political process in the coming stage because he faces criminal charges.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, he added, “is welcome back into the political process and I think that when violence stops and a national dialogue begins, all options will be possible”.
The Brotherhood and its allies accuse the military-backed government of moving away from political compromise. They also complain that Ashton did not offer a sufficiently comprehensive initiative to pull Egypt out of the political crisis.
“Ashton came to listen. Our meeting with her was just protocol,” said Bassam Al-Zarka of the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party.
Informed sources say that in her meeting with Brotherhood officials Ashton stressed that it has become impossible for Morsi to return to office and argued they should be pragmatic enough to offer concessions in return for guarantees they will be allowed to be reintegrated into political life.
But in the absence of trust it is unclear what guarantees would be sufficiently convincing.
“Brotherhood leaders based in Rabaa Al-Adaweya do not trust the military-backed government. They believe the government’s continued crackdown is a step towards putting them on trial and dissolving the group entirely,” says Mohamed Ali Bishr, leading Brotherhood official and former minister of local administration.
“The Brotherhood,” argues Zahran, “is left with two options: either it abandons its sit-ins in Cairo and Giza and joins the national reconciliation dialogue in the hope of keeping its structures intact, or it maintains the sit-ins, in which case it will find itself in open confrontation with the army and police.”
Al-Ahram political analyst Osama Al-Ghazali Harb believes “Brotherhood leaders are still betting that Washington can exert pressure on the interim government and Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi not to clear the sit-ins by force.”
“My advice to them is not to depend too much on Washington. It is clear America’s leverage has become very limited.”
Presidential spokesman Al-Muslemani said on Monday that “Egypt’s decisions are made at home and not in the White House.”
(see p.5)

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