Is Morsi a president for all Egyptians, or just Brothers? (+ video)
President Mohamed Morsi's reliance on Muslim Brotherhood activists to put down protests around the palace has further alienated some Egyptians from his rule.
Mohamed Omar was taking supplies to a field hospital treating opposition protesters injured in deadly clashes with supporters of President Mohamed Morsi last week when suddenly the front line shifted. The president's supporters surrounded and grabbed him.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Continued Turmoil in Egypt
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"They began beating me with sticks, knocking my face with their fists, and hitting me with metal on my head," he says. The crowd took his wallet, phone, car keys, and identity card, and continued beating him as they dragged him toward the presidential palace nearby. "People were beating me along the way, asking me 'why are you protesting the president?', accusing me of being an enemy of the country, saying I am an enemy of the president."
Once near the walls of the palace, they bound his hands, and then interrogated him, demanding to know which Egyptian opposition leader had paid him to protest. "Are you a dog of Hamdeen Sabbahi or are you a dog of Amr Moussa or of ElBaradei?" he remembers them asking.
Along with 48 others, he was held, bloodied and bound, outside the gates of the presidential palace by members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood for around 15 hours, until he was turned over to police.
Controversy is now growing over what happened in the wake of those deadly clashes, which killed 11 people, most of whom appear to have been Muslim Brotherhood members or supporters. In an address shortly after they were handed to the police, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi echoed the Brotherhood narrative of events, claiming confessions of paid thugs, and did not call for an investigation of the detentions and abuse. Some Egyptians say the events reinforce the growing perception that the president is too close to the Brotherhood, and is losing his ability to be a leader for all Egyptians.
Public prosecutor's role
Human Rights Watch released a statement yesterday calling on Egypt's public prosecutor to investigate the detentions and beatings, and the possible links to authorities.
The president must have been aware of what was happening for 15 hours outside the gates of his palace, where Ministry of Interior officials were present and aware of the detentions and abuse, says Heba Morayef, Egypt director for Human Rights Watch. "Yet in his speech he not only made no reference to this, but actually spoke out against people who were at that point were still being investigated and therefore covered by the presumption of innocence," she says.
His actions, particularly regarding the role of the public prosecutor, have dangerous implications, she says. "It puts us in an extremely dangerous position. Because if the public prosecutor is now seen as a pro-Morsi, politicized figure, then that further destroys what little respect there is left for these institutions as being the objective, rule-of-law-applying bodies in the country."
The prosecutor's role in events has also become controversial. The president appointed the public prosecutor, Talaat Abdallah, as part of a sweeping decree that sacked the Mubarak-era prosecutor, sidelined the judiciary, and made his own powers immune to judicial review. Mr. Abdallah today reversed a decision to transfer the local prosecutor who ordered the release of the prisoners detained by Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm reported the local prosecutor accused Abdallah of ordering his transfer as a punitive measure after he refused Abdallah's pressure to charge some of the protesters with crimes.