Egypt: Islamists Call for Court Protest After Mosque’s Storming
By Ahmed A. Namatalla
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called for protests today in front of Cairo’s Supreme Constitutional Court following the storming of a landmark mosque by the country’s military-backed government.
Egyptian police arrested 385 protesters inside the al-Fath mosque in Ramsis square yesterday, Middle East News Agency reported, citing a statement from the country’s Interior Ministry. Security forces yesterday fired tear gas into the mosque, where Supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi had been besieged since Aug. 16.
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An Egyptian man walks between lines of bodies wrapped in shrouds at a makeshift morgue in Cairo on August 15, 2013, following a crackdown on the protest camps of supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi the previous day. Photographer: Mahmoud Khaled/AFP via Getty Images
The crackdown against the country’s main Islamist group is the latest in a four-day campaign that has killed at least 800 people, including 173 since Aug. 16, and injured thousands, according to the Health Ministry. Among the dead is Ammar Badie, the son of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme GuideMohamed Badie, the group’s website said.
The mosque’s storming and government comments that it was weighing breaking up the Brotherhood prompted calls for further resistance. The National Coalition for Legitimacy, made up of the Brotherhood and its Islamist supporters, in an e-mailed statement said protests would take place at the court today.
“We’re re-entering a period where the Brotherhood will be returned to pariah status, which will likely reflect on other Islamist groups,” Ziad Akl, senior researcher at the Cairo-based Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said by phone. Some groups “will work within the framework of the state while others will turn into resistance movements.”
The military-backed government said yesterday it would seek a “legal framework” to dissolve the Brotherhood, the organization started in the 1920s and from which Mursi hails.
Presidential adviser Moustafa Hegazy later said in a televised press conference that Egypt seeks to have all organizations, including the Brotherhood, operating under a legal framework.
Police moved Aug. 14 to break up two Cairo sit-ins by pro-Mursi supporters who have been demanding his reinstatement since the military deposed him last month. Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi’s office said yesterday his government will “strike with an iron fist” at those it deems are instigating violence, according to an e-mailed statement. Both sides blame each other for Egypt’s worst violence since the January 2011 uprising that ended former President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of rule.
Police have arrested more than 1,000 Brotherhood supporters. Mohammed Al-Zawahiri, the brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, was also arrested, Nile News reported.
Three Irish citizens, a Turk and a Syrian were among those arrested at the al-Fath mosque yesterday, MENA reported, citing the Interior Ministry statement. Scenes televised live by Al Jazeera showed forces firing at gunmen atop one of the minarets before the mosque was cleared.
Mursi, the country’s first freely elected leader, was removed by the military last month after mass demonstrations during the first anniversary of him taking office. He’s been detained pending investigations into charges that include sharing intelligence with Hamas and other foreign organizations. The opposition movement against his rule gained momentum this year on claims he worked to consolidate power for the Brotherhood, polarizing the nation, and failed to improve the economy.
Dozens of churches have been burned and police stations attacked, which the government and its Islamist opponents blame on each other.
“Chaos is their doctrine and the highest of their hopes in order to pass their oppression, strengthen their hold and distort Egyptians’ rightful case for a secure Egypt away from the thieves, the corrupt and killers of the public,” Ahmed Aref, a Brotherhood spokesman, said in a statement yesterday on the Facebook page of the group’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. His phone was switched off when Bloomberg called seeking comment.
The stock exchange will reopen today for a trading session shortened to three hours from four, according to an e-mailed statement from the Egyptian Exchange. The bourse and banks closed on Aug. 15 amid the violence.
The price of the government’s benchmark 5.75 percent Eurobonds due in 2020 tumbled the most in 14 months over three days, sending the yield up 85 basis points, or 0.85 of a percentage point, to 9.18 percent Aug. 16. Five-year credit-default swaps, contracts which insure the nation’s debt against non-payment, were quoted at 810 basis points according to data provider CMA, the highest in more than a month. That ranks Egypt among the 10 riskiest nations in the world.
President Barack Obama said on Aug. 15 he called off a joint U.S. military exercise with Egypt scheduled to begin next month and warned that Egypt’s military-backed government has embarked on a “dangerous path.” He stopped short of cutting off the $1.3 billion in aid that the U.S. provides to the Egyptian army, its decades-old ally.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, in an interview on state television yesterday, said he was surprised at how the violence on Aug. 16 passed without a clear position from the international community. This “encourages violence,” he said, adding that Egypt’s relationship with the U.S. is “seeing a bit of tension.”