Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1179, (9 - 15 January 2014)
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1179, (9 - 15 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The tactics of protest

Though Morsi's trial was postponed, the Muslim Brotherhood and its sympathisers promise continued escalated confrontation, Dina Ezzat reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The second session in the trial of ousted president Mohamed Morsiwas postponed to 1 February. Poor visibility made it  difficult to fly Morsi by helicopter from his prison cell in Alexandria to the courthouse in Cairo.

Morsi is being held on charges of ordering the killing of demonstrators at the Ittihadeya presidential palace in December 2012.

On 28 January, Morsi is due to stand trial on another charge: escaping from jail shortly after his arrest in the early days of the 25 January Revolution. Two days after the eruption of the revolution, Morsi was arrested for his participation in the mass protests. It was on 27 January 2011when the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsi is a member, decided to join the demonstrations. However, at dawn on 29 January 2011 Morsi managed to break out of jail  with the help of Hamas activists, who had infiltrated the borders during the days of security havoc.

The accusations concerning Morsi’s escape first emerged when he was still in office.  The Hamas involvement in the Morsi breakaway is part of a wider set of charges that Morsi is facing in yet a third trial, this one involving espionage. The charges could lead to a death sentence.

A week ahead of Wednesday's trial which was put off, the Muslim Brotherhood, now designated a terrorist organisation by the government, has promised to escalate its demonstrations.

Morsi, who has refused to be represented by lawyers, will have “our enormous support on the street” as he “stands solid and firm in the face of the authorities installed by an illegitimate military coup that removed the legitimately elected president” according to a statement issued on Monday by the Coalition in Support of Legitimacy, an umbrella grouping of Brotherhood supporters and other Islamist parties.

“We are planning a huge demonstration to send our legitimate president a message of support. Millions will take to the streets to support Morsi in this scandalous trial.”

The demonstrations come as part of the ongoing series of protests that has followed Morsi’s removal.

“We will escalate protests ahead of the referendum on the constitution drafted by transitional authorities that arrived in power on the back of tanks,” says Ali Khafaguie, a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Khafaguie the demonstrations are “a sign of our commitment to defy the military’s attempts to impose a political reality that has no support from a free and legitimate ballot box”.

 “We are well aware that the transitional authorities will do everything they can to pass this constitution but we are also confident people will recognise that the constitution is being passed without any serious rallies from those who support it,” says Khafaguie. “We also want to show that despite all the attempts to force the passage of this illegitimate constitution the Muslim Brotherhood and other pro-legitimacy supporters remain a presence in the street and that the aggressive media campaign against us, the horrific roundups and brutal confrontations, have failed to undermine our commitment to salvaging legitimacy.”

“We will continue with our demonstrations which we find face less and less resentment from a public that is daily growing more aware that the 3 July was not about removing Morsi so as to open a path for democracy that had been somehow hijacked but was about re-installing a military regime.”

Khafaguie discounted the possibility that the Brotherhood’s cause would be better served by legal action rather than more demonstrations.

“What legal track?” he asks. “It’s a joke. The president is effectively kidnapped and faces charges for which there is no evidence. The judiciary has been almost fully politicised. There is no avenue open for fair and serious litigation.”

Some Muslim Brotherhood sources say attempts to take international legal action against leading figures in the interim administration for what one source described as “crimes against humanity” would continue.

Following the bloody dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo and Giza during which hundreds died, the Muslim Brotherhood, with support from international human rights groups and both Ankara and Doha, assembled an international legal team in an attempt to press the case in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

But the case faces enormous hurdles. Egypt is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and there is little possibility of either the ICC prosecutor-general or the UN Security Council referring the incidents surrounding the Brotherhood sit-in dispersals of August to the ICC.

Western diplomatic sources in Egypt say that while there is “considerable and compelling evidence the dispersal was too bloody” – some openly qualify it as a massacre – no international capital is interested in entering on a collision course with Egypt’s current rulers.

“There have been huge mistakes for sure, but Egypt is Egypt. We are aware that the transitional authorities remain quite popular and nobody wants to enter into a confrontation with Egypt; we want to help Egypt find its path towards democracy,” said the ambassador of one key Western capital in Cairo.

 “It would be a very tough job not just to provide evidence for what really happened in the dispersal but also to show the chain of command,” says an internationally renowned lawyer who has been consulted by the government on the matter. “It would be extraordinarily difficult to implicate either the minister of interior or the minister of defence in a legal case.”

Yet demonstrations, and the attempt to pursue international legal action against the transitional authorities are unlikely to stop in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. They remain the only cards in the denuded hand the Muslim Brotherhood has left and it will hold onto them until it is politically expedient to let them go, says political analyst Mustafa Kamel Al-Sayed.

A high turnout on 14 and 15 January for the referendum on the constitution could send the Muslim Brotherhood a clear sign that the time has come for it to bow to the will of the Egyptian people, says Al-Sayed. Far more likely to assuage the group, however, would be the offer of some kind of political participation.

 “I think that at the end of the day the Muslim Brotherhood will run in the parliamentary elections either as independents or under the umbrella of the FJP if it is not outlawed by the government. They could easily end up with a few seats and with a sense that they can emerge from the current political crisis,” argues Al-Sayed.

A cabinet minister who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity said that any integration of the Muslim Brotherhood continues to be rejected by “leading figures of the state”.

“The overwhelming mood is for confrontation and I am not even sure that after the new constitution is passed there will be any serious moves towards re-integration,” he said.

Western diplomats in Cairo say “leading state figures” have given promises that the Muslim Brotherhood will be allowed to participate in the parliamentary elections either as independents or through the FJP.

“We keep reminding our friends in the Egyptian government that there is no way to crush or uproot the Muslim Brotherhood without colossal human rights violations, and that a path towards integration is possible without compromising justice for anyone who is proven culpable of wrongdoing or violence. We are not sure that there is much appreciation for this argument,” said one diplomat.

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