Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Egypt: Former President Morsi, 35 Others, To Be Tried for Conspiring with Hamas in Destablizing Egypt

According to The Associated Press, Egypt's top prosecutor directed that former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, 62, and 35 other co-conspirators be tried for conspiring with the Palestinian group, Hamas, Lebanon's Hezbollah and other militant groups to carry out a campaign of violence to destabilize Egypt following his ouster.

Prosecutors claim that while serving as head of state, Morsi and his aides revealed Egyptian state secrets to the militant groups and to Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Morsi and 35 others, including the Muslim Brotherhood's top three leaders, are also accused of sponsoring terrorism and carrying out combat training and other acts to undermine Egypt's stability.

The charges, which refer to offenses as far back as 2005, carry the death penalty.

"After the removal of defendant Mohammed Morsi from office, and the change in the political environment in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and those terrorist groups carried out IED attacks, threats against military forces, terrorizing Egyptians in the Sinai Peninsula, undermining the country's independence... and inciting sedition between the people to trigger a civil war in Egypt with the aim of bringing the ousted president back to office and reclaiming the Brotherhood's grip on power," the prosecutor's indictment read.

Mohammed el-Damati, a defense attorney for Brotherhood members, said counsel have not attended any of their clients' interrogations and have no idea about the details of the charges. Among leading members also indicted in the case were top Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie and deputy Khairat el-Shater, both also facing trial. A second deputy, Mahmoud Ezzat, is also charged, but remains a fugitive. Also charged was Saad el-Katatni, head of the Brotherhood's political party.
COMMENT: No trial date has been set as yet. Morsi is already on trial on charges of inciting the murder of his opponents while in office. He was removed from office in July 2013 by the military, following days of mass protests demanding he step down. Morsi spent months in an undisclosed location before he appeared in court to face the incitement charges in November. That trial resumes in January 2014.

The new charges come as Egypt continues to deal with the aftermath of Morsi's ouster. His supporters have maintained protests since his removal from office, demanding his reinstatement. The rallies have dwindled in strength, although a continued crackdown since last summer, with thousands arrested and hundreds killed in the violent breakup of protests.

El-Damati predicts that the trial won't take place until after the referendum on the amended constitution, to be held during January 14-15, 2014, largely because Egyptian leaders want to guarantee calm.

The constitution is a significantly amended version of one that was adopted by a predominantly Islamist panel last year. The adoption of the new charter is the first step in a political road map announced in July by Egypt's military chief when he removed Morsi.

The Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, on Wednesday called for a boycott of the upcoming referendum. Other allies of Morsi, including youth groups which have held daily protests since his ouster, have said they will demonstrate during the referendum.

Government officials had warned of attempts to create chaos on the day of the referendum, and state media reported that as many as 200,000 members of the security forces will be assigned to protect polling stations nationwide.

Prosecutors said their investigation also has demonstrated that the Brotherhood received funds from a number of foreign countries. Investigators claim the plan began as earlier as 2005, and was activated in 2011 during the turmoil that accompanied the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi is already under investigation over allegations he and the Brotherhood worked with Hamas on a prison break that freed him and other members of the group during Egypt's 2011 uprising. That attack killed fourteen inmates.
At least 17 of the 35 people charged on December 18 with Morsi are on the run, prosecutors allege.

Although several governments have lowered their travel warnings pertaining to Egypt, I continue to urge that only essential travel be conducted, as tourism is still subject to being adversely affected throughout the country. 

If you visit Egypt, keep in mind that pro-Morsi protests are continuing and that protests before, during and following the referendum are likely to occur.