Egyptian Court Accuses Morsi of Espionage and Paves the Way for Further Trouble

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FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP / Getty Images

Egyptian supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi build a giant portrait of him as they continue to hold a sit-in outside Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo, on July 25, 2013.

Early Friday morning, an Egyptian judge announced the detention of deposed President Mohamed Morsi for 15 days while authorities investigate charges of espionage levied against him by the transitional government. The move aborts all possibility of near-term reconciliation with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Morsi has been held incommunicado at an undisclosed location since he was ousted by the military on July 3; his own family claims to have no knowledge of his whereabouts or access to him. Today’s ruling by investigating judge Hassan Samir is the first real attempt by Egypt’s military-backed transitional regime to give legal definition to Morsi’s detention. International pressure to either free or charge Morsi has increased steadily in recent weeks, with the German and Turkish governments, along with the European Union, calling for his release.

But the new process brings new complications. At some point, Morsi will have to appear publicly before a judge and be given access to his family; international organizations like the Red Cross will also intensify their calls for access to him, adding fuel to Brotherhood claims that Morsi is in fact a political prisoner. The move also signals a definitive end to half-hearted hopes that the transitional government and Morsi’s enraged and defiant Muslim Brotherhood could reach some sort of accord or reconciliation. Interim President Adly Mansour has repeatedly talked of welcoming the Brotherhood back into the Egyptian political family. But these extended olive branches have come alongside repeated whacks with the rod; the transitional government has presided over a deepening security crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, while charging a host of Brotherhood leaders for allegedly inciting their followers to violence and rebellion. Defense Ministry Abdel Fatah Al-Sissi called for massive public demonstrations of support for the military on Friday July 26—a move the Brotherhood claims is the final step before Al-Sissi launches a national crackdown on the Islamist group. The two sides have spent Friday holding parallel rallies around the country, with scattered reports of afternoon violence in both Cairo and Alexandria. The possibility of further hostilities looms as the evening drags on, when the crowds on both sides are expected to grow larger.

The choice of charging Morsi with espionage is a curious one—and a possible indication of the weakness of the other potential cases being built against him. The charges center around a January 30, 2011 prison break in which Morsi and dozens of other Muslim Brotherhood officials were freed—after being rounded up two days earlier in one of then President’s Hosni Mubarak’s final desperate crackdowns. In a now-famous phone call to the Al Jazeera satellite news channel, Morsi said at the time that he didn’t know the identities of the men who freed him. Since that time, rumors have circulated steadily that the Brotherhood had employed their compatriots in the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas to orchestrate the breakout. But these claims never gained any momentum until after Morsi’s ouster.

There were other mysterious prison breaks around Egypt on that same day in 2011—ahead of the revolutionary uprising that would eventually topple the autocrat Mubarak—with many being blamed on either vengeful Interior Ministry officials deliberately throwing open the gates, or ordinary citizens coming to break out their relatives. Even if the Hamas connection could somehow be proven in court, it’s unclear just how that would qualify as espionage or treason if place before an unbiased judge. Any lawyer would argue that Morsi’s arrest and detention was itself illegitimate—so how could it be illegal to defy it?

The other potential charges looming over Morsi are even more controversial. Samir’s ruling—which still doesn’t amount to formal charge sheet—suggested Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president conducted a virtual reign of terror while in office. It accuses Morsi of “aggressive acts in the country” that include conspiring with Hamas to attack police stations and kidnap and kill Egyptian soldiers.

The fact of Morsi’s detention is less surprising than the nature of the charges themselves—branding Morsi and the Brotherhood, in essence, as traitors. It is not the sort of maneuver that a government interested in reconciling with disaffected opponents would make. Friday’s ruling, combined with the pro-military protests called for the same day, have now set the stage for a sweeping crackdown on the Brotherhood that seems likely to drive the organization back underground.

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

94 comments
David Miles
David Miles

This should not be life! Anybody who shoots people on the street is a bad person unless they are seeking to end violence, but who can do that but evil government? Islam is not killing people on Ramadan! How can you play politics?

obieone35
obieone35

@TIME just imagine if this happened to obama... we would sung a different tune...

tctheman6820
tctheman6820

How can an illegal goverment charge a democratically elected President of Egypt of espionage? Where is Obama? Where are the leaders of democratic countries around the world? If you want to preach democracy to people around the world, then you must uphold the democratic values!!!

DrHaque
DrHaque

@TIME @TIMEWorld Espionage!!! These puppies & puppets of Zionists have Zionists chain around their necks & they are biting their own people!

presidentstevie
presidentstevie

@TIME American media not enjoying the fact that they're agents are being exposed and expelled from all their satellite states.

Dolphinized
Dolphinized

I am not sure if the author is a lawyer, or a judge. As far as I understand, if a case, against Morsi or any other one for that matter, is infront of a judge, the every body shuts up till the judge says his verdict.

Insinuating that Morsi will have an unfair trial are merely a pathetic attempt to divert the thoughts of the readers to be doubtful. I perceive such attempts as a failure to have an in depth understanding of jurisdiction distribution and democracy in general.

The case is in court, a judge will have his say, Morsi has a bunch of very capable lawyers. If he is acused of treason he will get the punishment law dictates, otherwise, he goes home and I personally owe him an apology. till then, you can talk about massacres, protests and what not. 

IHDOteam
IHDOteam

@TIME Egypt is back in the darkness of junta rule and abuse of human rights

cwizard123
cwizard123

@TIME lol wat former president of Egytian Morsi fail2understand is, u can't fight the masses and win no matter who you are...cus dey made u.

طارق رشاد
طارق رشاد

Mistaken evaluate Morsi and weighs international and regional weight. Mursi valuable قترة and Gizhjzb eyes of the world through the current events in Egypt from sit-ins and Adharbat and subjected him wisdom did not bombard pen in Ghdh not obscure article .. I did not suppress one did not confiscate freedoms had not been arrested a .. man Warsi principles and values of a noble society was راصدا him international community and the attic We see now citizens insist abroad make up demonstrations and objections to what is happening now in Egypt from the suppression of freedoms and Aatqlat political and the absence of a constitution for the country, prompting those who hold boil affairs of the country to exercise methods illogical to the questionnaire or census or referendum grew up Minister Alzvaa idea mandate .. and March Aisalahiath and رأيني massacre and the events of the podium. . the world now follow up well Maydar of events in Egypt and changed the image 360 degrees it after it was media delinquent to plot 30/6 and illustrated that feat .. I took the view changed 360 degrees and became a media Mncefaltaad right and saw that what happened is encroachment on the constitutional legitimacy of the country's and the rape of power hence broad weight Morsi and its impact during the period of wisdom and that if returned to power will return, supported the international community's first that he was keen to Mainade its freedoms and democracies ideal Echtve him and fear Ptaadih otherwise Akecaat chaos and lost justice and became the law of the jungle are ruling. Secondly also return Morsi through fair-minded people to the right and supporters of the legitimacy internally in Egypt and Almqarnin Fimakan happen custody and between what is happening now is real will go down in history return Morsi precedent did not occur in history which ousted Prime legitimate through a military coup and return to power through the will of the people, the owner and the source of authority in that ....

Hani Hazzi
Hani Hazzi

@Aymen Elsayed When introduci g yourself. you forgot to mention you are a pro MB, if not a member, or an activist of this terrorist organization. Please choose between being a free Egyptian who would never call for external interference in his country from international community, or a traitor. (Copts did not call for international protection) You dare calling the army's action depositing Morsy a coup? You did not see 35 millions opposing him go to the street? Shame on you. Or is it your terrorist media did not show them to you? And are trying to tell me you want the Military to support half a million MB against the rest of the population? You want the Military to oppose a 90 million country for the benefit of half a million MB? By the way, where did you see blood on 30/6 or on 26/7 except that caused by your people? What about the terrorists in Sinai? You expect the free world to support Hamas in Sinai? Maybe, particularly that your Morsy sold a piece of it against money.. Worse than Judas... You want the free world to support throwing Egyptians from 5 stories buildings? Dear Aymen, please stop taking for granted the free world is constituted uniquely by fools...

Hani Hazzi
Hani Hazzi

@Onur Erten 1. The election of the first elected president was a conspiracy between the USA, SCAF, your country's Government, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood 2. The first elected president is an impostor and a prison fugitive. 3. The first elected president has other interests he prioritized on Egypt's interests. 4. The fist elected president was not a Muslim. He did not do by Islamic law and Islamic sayings. He was a member of a clan of murderers and terrorists similar to the one ruling your country now (but this is not of our business, exactly like we Egyptians believe what happens in our country is not your concern) 5. The first elected president was arrested by an indiction by a court decision for deeds related to high treason and other reasons 6. A part from the 200 killed, military and police officers were killed cold blooded by Hamas and MB terrorists 7. It is proven beyond doubt that some of the 200 killed include civilians killed and shot, again in total cold blood by MB people. 8. Would you please tell me, being a Turk, where is your interest in having those who claim being Muslims, but who use Islam as a cover to achieve their worldly power objectives rule Egypt, when you saw more than 35 million Egyptians go to the streets to get rid of those fanatics, radicals, religion abusers, or is it that your media did not show you the Egyptian people in the streets? (By the way, I wouldn't be surprised you were not shown that, in view of your country's interests with the MB government of Egypt) 9. I am surprised by your attitude defending those you claim are good faithful Muslims (where they are terrorists) when your government did the same with pacifist rebels who opposed your government lately (but again, what happens in your country is not our business) 10. Why do you want us to drown in blood? Is this having to do with religion? Or is it your sinister dark past you are unable to forget?

Onur Erten
Onur Erten

The first elected president of Egypt has been arrested, 200 of its supporters killed and the thousands are wounded, and you don't want to call it as a coup. Those killers and its supporters are going to be drowned in the Muslim's blood inshallah.

Aymen Elsayed
Aymen Elsayed

My name is AymenAlsayed I am egyptian refuse bloody military coup in Egypt And in my name, I carry all the free world the responsibility towards this bloody coup. To all human rights organizations and the United Nations and all the world's media networks Help us there is now a new massacre committed by the police and the army and thugs against peaceful protesters supporters of President Morsi in Rabaa El Adaweya field Under severe media blackout. I've fallen so far 200 killed and 4500 injured and we hold the international community and the United Nations and the Organization of the human rights of these massacres against humanity. On the international community to stand by the Egyptian people and not backing the bloody coup led by Sisi. And on the international community to shoulder its responsibility towards the massacres committed against humanity. These are some pictures and videos of the massacre committed and is still going in the right of peaceful protesters reject military coup.

Eva Lisk
Eva Lisk

TIME y are u in thhis vviddeoo, searrch ur name -->www .Herovids. com

ahmed_yakout
ahmed_yakout

I'm proud of myself ..I tried Mubarak and Mursi ..Nothing in the world like the Egyptians we are an example of patriotism and freedom ..Either Mursi actually is accused of spying because he escaped from prison, "Wadi Natrun" has the issue was considered in court during the period of his rule ..European Union do not take orders from him, nor the United States nor any other country again ..There is a case of espionage and betrayal of the homeland ..Leave the judiciary says his speech ..And everyone respected

As for reconciliation ..Frankly I do not want frankness with criminal terrorist group ..Client of the West who commits something punishable by law to be like Mubarak accounting ..Hold wrongdoers accountable any fault was first and then reconcile

FaroukAlwyni
FaroukAlwyni

The world should not let the Military thugs colluded with cronies of the former regime kills Arab's biggest democracy. It is more clear now that the fight in Egypt is about the corrupt regime VS the revolution. Now, the corrupt regime with its buly i.e. military regime has stolen democracy from Egyptian people. I fail to understand those Egyptians who have come slavishly to the Tahrir square upon the order of  a traitor, al-Sisi, who wants to take over the power. Al-Sisi is the type of military guy who will betray his people, as he has betrayed his former boss, Mursi. Al-Sisi was supposed to maintain order under the democratically elected Leader. Rather, he took advantage of the situation and took power for himself. Poor those Egyptian that supported the military, they forgot that the Military has given them nothing but backwardness, under-development, and dependency on foreign aid. MB has every right to resist the military. The world should not be in silence any longer !! 

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

GOOD!!

Sever all ties to the phony 'Muslim Brotherhood,' and gut their organization!!!

Ahmed Abd Elrahman
Ahmed Abd Elrahman

Message from the Egyptian people to the free world that terrorism threatens the country the whole world without regard to religion or the place or the color and what is happening now in Egypt is the demolition of the rules had been established within the territory to Egypt to be a source of threat to the world, therefore I appeal to the free world to stand with Egypt if the word orderthe elimination of terrorism, which produces every day of the gangs of Muslim Brotherhood, which delves into the eighty and have no loyalty to any country from all these countries understand ready to destroy all of these countries in order to reach the dream of a rule and this is evident through the history of this group, which killers Nokrashy Pashain (1948) and killed the judge who sentenced these criminals so I hope that the world stands are free without interfering in Egyptian affairs only by working with the Egyptians on the elimination of terrorism, even if the word fairness to this good people Clerks / Ahmed Abdel Rahman lawyer

Ahmed Emad
Ahmed Emad

A Revolution supported by military.. exactly like Mubarak !!

Oscar Cumps Ruelle
Oscar Cumps Ruelle

Egypt, the only country where heads of state can be convicted for spying on their own citizens

Fahd Sherif
Fahd Sherif

In Egypt Urgent In front of the conference hall in Nasr City beat pro-democracy citizens bomb And the death of many of them women and men Please help Egyptians From a military weapon

Nandi Syukri
Nandi Syukri

Moursi was elected as a President, but wait ....he is a moslem, that makes him considered as a terorist.

Otetsudai Shimashouka
Otetsudai Shimashouka

"reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood" - as if that was ever going to happen! hardy har har

Hani Hazzi
Hani Hazzi

@Ayanda Abiondum Nurudeen Fountain Sorry to contradict you... This has nothing to do with Islam. This is a fight against terrorism. True Muslims are not terrorists. True Islam does not call for terror. Muslim Brotherhood does. If you can't see it... Simply bug-off.

Ayanda Abiodun Nurudeen Fountain
Ayanda Abiodun Nurudeen Fountain

But how may is the whole population of Egypt that a hopeless liar like you want us to beleive 30million came to the street? By the way what you and your so called infidels are banking on is the mainstream media branding of islam as terror, which is why you are not prepared for the genuine reaction from the international community. Now you are desperate to link them (the muslim brotherhood) to every terrorist created in warp immagination.

Hamoksha Elgen
Hamoksha Elgen

Morsi will be sent to thr prison within few days with a espionage accusation.

Hamoksha Elgen
Hamoksha Elgen

If anyone says that who is in the street now is not the egyptian people I think he needs glasses

Hamoksha Elgen
Hamoksha Elgen

Morsi became a leader of the terrorists all around the world. He was trying to build up his own army gathering them like alkaada, jihadien, hamas and others to rule the world later. Obama supported them thinking that they will be a strong force against shiaa 'Iran' and other islamic forces that will destroy each other like what USA did in Iraq to have the great middle east under Israel leadership. Such corrupted leaders forget about people and democracy but to get to thier goals they use these words a lot and simple minds believe.

HannaKhair
HannaKhair

@Adam Saad - is 33 million people is also a coup?

HannaKhair
HannaKhair

@Adam Saad - is selling 40% from Sinai by Morsi to US & Israel is a Coup too ?

Tarek_1961
Tarek_1961

@TIME @TIMEWorld Egypt new massacre: Police fire on anti-coup demonstrators: 40 killed so far, ambulances prevented from evacuating wounded