Where Is Morsi? Absence of Egypt’s Detained Ex-President Attracts Scrutiny

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MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY / REUTERS

An injured supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi carries a poster with his image during clashes on the Sixth of October Bridge in central Cairo on July 15, 2013

Mohamed Morsi’s last public act as President was a brief — by his long-winded standards — 30-minute address on national television on July 2. In the prerecorded statement, he repeatedly hailed the legitimacy of government and his right to rule and warned against looming plots to usurp his authority and the electoral will of the Egyptian people.

Within 24 hours, Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian President was in army custody and hasn’t been heard from since. As Morsi enters his third week of detention, his status is becoming an increasingly uncomfortable issue as Egypt’s transitional military-backed government attempts to move on with the post-Morsi era. Foreign governments and even a few isolated secular Egyptian political leaders are starting to call for his release. Germany and Turkey have both openly dubbed Morsi’s continued detention without formal charges an illegitimate act. The U.S. also called for his release — although in much more passive language.

There are signs that the issue is gaining momentum. On July 17, Germany’s ambassador to Egypt, Michael Bock, told local reporters: “Morsi’s release is useful for the country’s redemocratization. The judiciary should rapidly determine a verdict. Is there a case against him or not?” E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood during a visit to Cairo on July 17. Ashton later told reporters, “I believe [Morsi] should be released. I was assured he is well. I would have liked to see him.”

As Morsi’s time in custody lengthens, the more likely it becomes that the man who was Egypt’s first democratically elected head of state could be deemed in international circles a political prisoner, even one of conscience — something Egypt’s nascent transitional government, which swept into power on the grounds that Morsi and his Islamist cohorts were taking the country off a cliff, should be desperate to avoid. Egypt’s prosecutors announced earlier this week a wide-ranging set of investigations against Morsi for crimes that include incitement to violence, complicity in the killing of protesters, damaging the economy and even espionage. No formal charges have been filed yet.

“Putting somebody in prison like Morsi is undoubtedly a violation of the [U.N. human-rights] covenant, and that’s why there is this frantic search to find something to accuse him of,” says Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-born law professor emeritus at DePaul University and a former U.N. human-rights investigator in Serbia and Afghanistan. “There is no doubt that he is a prisoner of conscience.”

Since Morsi’s ouster on July 3, a host of leaders from his Muslim Brotherhood organization have been charged with incitement to violence over incendiary public speeches and statements. Most of those accused leaders remain in hiding or removed from the reach of authorities as they wait surrounded by thousands of their loyalists at an open-ended sit-in outside a mosque in northeastern Cairo. But Bassiouni said Morsi’s statements in his final speeches in office simply don’t qualify as incitement to violence. However, he understands the transitional government’s logic: “The position of the government is to try and link Morsi to the announcements and actions of the other Muslim Brotherhood leaders,” he says. “When you consider them collectively like that, then that way Morsi can be considered a threat to public order and safety.”

Apart from his supporters, few inside Egypt view Morsi as a political prisoner. In the current deeply polarized national environment, anyone expressing discomfort over Morsi’s treatment or the ongoing security crackdown on other leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood is likely to be labeled a Brotherhood sympathizer.

However some local political figures have floated the idea that perhaps the deposed President should be released in order to defuse the controversy surrounding his detention. Mohammed Aboul Ghar, head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, told the al-Arabiya satellite news channel last week that Morsi should “return home, unless he is required to face justice.”

But when contacted by TIME, Aboul Ghar offered a slightly more muddled perspective. “I don’t think just holding him as a bargaining chip is a good idea,” Aboul Ghar tells TIME. But at the same time he seemed to endorse the idea of keeping Morsi in custody until the Brotherhood accepts the country’s new political realities and abandons its campaign to return him immediately to office. “If there is an overall agreement between the Muslim Brotherhood and the new government regarding the Brotherhood’s status and position, then this will certainly include the release of Morsi,” he says.

In the meantime, the nation plays an ongoing guessing game as to Morsi’s exact whereabouts. The Brotherhood’s belief that he was being held at a Republican Guard base in northeastern Cairo helped turn that location into a protest flash point — one that exploded into deadly violence early on July 8 with clashes between Morsi supporters and security forces that left at least 50 Brotherhood members dead.

Egyptian-military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali has repeatedly refused to reveal Morsi’s location and recently said only that he was being kept in “a safe place” and was “being treated like a former President.” Earlier this week, Ali objected to the use of the word detained to describe Morsi’s status.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, continue in their efforts to find crimes to pin on Morsi. So far, the publicly announced investigations have partially focused on the long-simmering rumors that Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders were broken out of jail in the midst of the 2011 revolution by compatriots from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. However that is a curious legal angle to take: any lawyer would argue that Morsi’s arrest and detention was illegitimate since it was ordered by the hated regime of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak in one of Mubarak’s final, desperate crackdowns.

The Brotherhood — perhaps realizing that the political winds have turned against it — continues to rally international support for its cause and for Morsi’s status as a political prisoner and rightful President of Egypt. The longer he remains detained without charges, the greater the chance that those claims will be backed by foreign governments or international human-rights groups.

It’s a crisis that Aboul Ghar hopes resolves itself relatively quickly and quietly. “I don’t think it will continue for that much longer,” he says. “Once things calm down, I think [Morsi] will go home.”

Khalil is a Cairo-based journalist and the author of Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation.

102 comments
TutAnkhAmon
TutAnkhAmon

.

How to change a society

In the early 70s you couldn't see a single Egyptian woman wearing a Niqab / Burka but this was changed by the oil boom in the Gulf  in the 70s, 5 Million Egyptians in average/year have worked there,

These Egyptians assimilated, learned, changed or adopted the Wahhabi / Salafi radical cult in one way or another and they became the 5th column.

A 5th column that imported to Egypt a superficial radical religious practice based on appearance and slogans while devoid of spirituality, tolerance and co-existence.

This 5th column rich with Petrodollars joined the Muslim Brothers in creating private Schools, hospitals, Mosques,satellite TV  and charities aimed at converting the poor.

These changes are underway in Africa, Asia, Europe and the US:

The UK currently have over 85 Sharia courts and Sharia neighborhood

- The UK is the world's capital of radical Islam as it have given political asylum to Hundreds of foreign convicted terrorists from around the globe

- It host a number of satelite TV preaching radical Islam

- It host a numerous bogus HR, sponsored media and lobbying organizations

These changes are quietly underway in the US but are destined to explode with the opening of the Wahhabi Qatar's Al Jazeera in the US, Al Jazeera will dominate the US MKT as it doesn't need to make profit like other media.

Google these organization in your area to observe the cancer spreading

Biomedeg
Biomedeg

Army coup done for the benefit of Israel and USA,and this coup arranged by sisi and he has paid by Netanyahu, cuz Sis informed  Netanyahu 3 days before about the coup 

Ahmed_Ibrahim
Ahmed_Ibrahim

The media keeps telling the world that only muslim brotherhood is protesting against the coup and supporting dr Morsi, this is absolutly false, the corrupted generals and the blind secular elite has over 200 innocent egyptians blood on their hands and over 1700 wounded man and woman, and they keep talking about democracy and freedom, they are afraid to release the man because he will expose their conspiracy and whoever is behind this coup ..  

moiragallaga
moiragallaga

Difficult situation in Egypt. At the heart of it is the clash between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. The turn of events has given the Egyptian military the opportunity to take out from the seats of power their long time enemy, the Brotherhood. On the other hand, the longer they hold on to Morsi without charging him is going to erode their credibility, particularly with the international community and some pressure is already being applied as can be gleaned in this article. Another interesting development is the attempt of the Brotherhood to rally international support to its cause because they lost domestic support as manifested by the civil uprising that called for Morsi's ouster. There's a lot more chapters to go in this particular story. 

bibinetanyahu
bibinetanyahu

I guess then this is Arabic style democracy. I wonder how much Netanyahu paid Sisi for his coup? Funny that in Egypt tens of civilians were massacred in impunity by the army.  

sherif-omar
sherif-omar

i will keep an eye ,about what you are writing here about egypt , always you will find my comments , cause truly you have no idea about egyptians ,,,,,way of living , way of thinking , and many more .........

sherif-omar
sherif-omar

by the way , we dont care about USA aid by now ,  its not needed anymore , dont you ever think of using it to press on egyptians ,,,,

sherif-omar
sherif-omar

its not a coup ....its the uprise of the egyptian against the bad ruling of morsi and his groups , they are not welcomed any more ....try to listen to the egyptian people , true people in the streets , talk to normal people in the streets , thats my  advise to you ,,,,before asking where is morsi ??????

sherif-omar
sherif-omar

have you heared that 3 hours ago , the terrsists attack the people of el aressh city by missles , muslim brothers had said if morsi relased will order those terrisom to stop attacking incenet people , egyptian's will not allow egyptian army to relase him . hope u can mind my words well ,

sherif-omar
sherif-omar

Seems to me that you did not understand very well what happened in Egypt.I tell you from Egypt.I live in the center of events.Mohamed Morsi was a complete loyalty to his group the Muslim Brotherhood.Does not care about poverty and the acute shortage of all the requirements of everyday life for Egyptians.'re Talking about a coup in Egypt.There is not a coup, there is a popular desire mayhem in the beginning of a new era for Egypt.There are more than 80% do not want Mohamed Morsi.They are now killing our children in the streets

TutAnkhAmon
TutAnkhAmon

Coup or no coup, Hitler and Mussolini were also democratically elected.

To those sitting on their comfortable sofa while crying about HR and democracy for the terrorists Muslim Brothers aka Al Qaeda.

Morsi and some Muslim Brothers terrorist leaders will be tried in OPEN COURT for High Treason for intelligence with foreign power (Hamas) to kill Egyptian solider in the Sinai, conspired to cede part of the Sinai to Hamas and conspired with terrorists organizations to settle in the Sinai among other charges.

Morsi's openly displayed his support for terrorism in his first day in office.

1. Vowed to free the blind sheikh jailed in US in the first WTC bombing
2. Pardoned and released Hundreds of convicted terrorists

He later advocated arming the organ eating, children killers, foreign mercenaries of Wahhabi Qatar in Syria

Morsi in 2010: No to Negotiations with the Blood- Sucking, Warmongering "Descendants of Apes and Pigs"; Calls to Boycott U.S. Products

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3NCiaozL0k

Morsi in 2010: We Must Nurse Our Children and Grandchildren on Hatred of Jews

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCopdzv29WY

VanPetio
VanPetio

@AliAbunimah Sympathise along with the ones calling Peres "beloved friend" no thanks! To hell with him

micpowwell
micpowwell

@TIME @TIMEWorld Bottom line is whether Morci allowed open representation on the constitution and impeachment, if not screw the punk!!!

nachoua
nachoua

@AliAbunimah none of your business Ali... I think your so-called enemy, a.k.a Israel, should be your main concern... Aren't you a militant ?

TutAnkhAmon
TutAnkhAmon

@Ahmed_Ibrahim Clown Morsi will stand public trial for High Treason and keep killing innocents people and fudging the identity and numbers.

Alechamesh
Alechamesh

@sherif-omar

It seems you are a puppet of the military coup perpetrators. If "normal" people on the street are anything like you then what are the abnormal ones like!!!   By the way, the word is terrorists not "terrsists". 

Alechamesh
Alechamesh

@TutAnkhAmon 

Tut...tut...tut... You may not be aware of it, but to world opinion, you are creating a new Egyptian Mandela.

Alechamesh
Alechamesh

@paul_chinnasamy @TIME 

Ehhmmmmm....Paul, he is a prisoner of the military, just in case you didn't know.

alizewail
alizewail

@nachoua @AliAbunimah On behalf of Egyptians, Ali, sorry. When u have fascistic rulers for 60 years u tend to get a lot of fascist citizens.

Alechamesh
Alechamesh

@TutAnkhAmon @Ahmed_Ibrahim 

Tut..tut..tut. These are very bad accusations without proof that you claim against the only democratically elected Egyptian leader of your country in 7000 years! I hope that the hate and spleen between Egyptians would not be the sole reason for this disastrous military coup, spoiling your Jan 2011 remarkable revolution

TutAnkhAmon
TutAnkhAmon

@Alechamesh The 22 Million who signed a petition for early election says its their revolution 

nachoua
nachoua

@alizewail @AliAbunimah we are determined 2 avoid any militarization of z regime & to access a fully civil state asap.We only worship Egypt.

AliAbunimah
AliAbunimah

@alizewail Thank you, but I certain;y do not hold Egyptians collectively responsible!!!!