Egypt: After 20 days, Morsi still behind bars

Morsi's family has called for his release, threatening to take legal action while divisions rack Egypt.

Hassan Ammar/AP
Osama Morsi (l.), Shaimaa (c.), and Abdullah (r.), children of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi attend a press conference, in Cairo, Monday, July 22. The family of the ousted Egyptian President accused the country's military generals Monday of 'kidnapping' him, and said that it holds the army responsible for his 'safety and security.'

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The family of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has accused the military of “kidnapping” him more than three weeks ago and threatened to take legal action amid ongoing violence that has claimed an estimated 100 lives since July 3, when Mr. Morsi was detained.

The former president's family gave a press conference this week where they called his abduction a “violation of democracy.”

His son, Osama Morsi, called the imprisonment the "embodiment of the abduction of popular will and a whole nation," and said the family will "take all legal actions" to end Morsi’s detention, potentially calling on the International Criminal Court, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Egyptian human rights groups say Morsi must either be freed or charged, reports The Associated Press. The interim government says Morsi is healthy and remains unharmed, however “the leadership of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and even some of his opponents have criticized his detention, fearing it signals a return to practices that were common during the dictatorship of [former President] Hosni Mubarak,” the LA Times reports.

The Muslim Brotherhood has refused to recognize the interim government – which has created a new cabinet and started rewriting the constitution – and has held protests almost every day since the president was deposed, according to the Financial Times.

Nine people have died in protests over the past two days, with a total of 100 killed since July 3, Reuters reports. Morsi's removal from power has heightened divisions across Egypt.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Dan Murphy wrote this week about the euphoric unity many Egyptians felt after the 2011 uprisings that saw former President Mubarak removed from power – and how that sense of togetherness didn’t last for long.

They insisted that all were "Egyptians" first – categories like Christian or Muslim or leftist or liberal or rich or poor didn't really matter….

The optimism ignored the important and clear stratification in Egyptian society at the time, particularly between Islamists like the Muslim Brothers of Mohamed Morsi and various secular-leaning groups. But in the nearly 30 months since, that division has been wrenched into the open. The vast, polarized protests against the Muslim Brotherhood – which convinced the military to depose Mr. Morsi on July 3 – showed that. And it couldn't be any clearer now, with pro-Morsi protesters and anti-Morsi protesters clashing at the entrance to Tahrir Square today.

The Associated Press reports that the Muslim Brotherhood has attempted to use Morsi’s detention as a rallying point to “restore its badly damaged popularity.” Brotherhood politicians who see the US as orchestrating a coup have called on Egyptians to storm the US Embassy. This comes side-by-side with accusations from anti-Morsi Egyptians who claim the US supported the former president.

Egypt’s polarization can be seen in representations as simple as cartoons published before and after the new government took power earlier this month. The New Yorker spoke with a number of cartoonists and wrote about slightly repurposed cartoons that were published before and after Morsi was pushed from power. One in particular went from depicting the former president with a giant, blank speech bubble, to later publishing the same cartoon with the blank bubble now filled with weapons.

Another cartoon, published on July 5, depicts a “thug to former President Hosni Mubarak” standing outside Mubarak’s prison cell, calling in to ask “Happy boss?” The New Yorker writes that, “Throughout the past year, Muslim Brotherhood media has depicted dissent against Morsi as driven by remnants of the Mubarak regime.”

Reuters reports that "residents close to the Brotherhood's main protest area in Nasr City have filed a complaint with the public prosecutor asking for the removal of the protesters. A security source said the case is expected to be taken to a court and ruled upon soon 'to give the army a legal basis to end the protests.'"

The Muslim Brotherhood is “unlikely to make a deal” with the new interim government, “saying it cannot accept a military coup,” according to the AP. The Brotherhood has pledged to continue protesting until Morsi is returned to power.

"Leaders of the military coup continue to terrorize the peaceful protesters in Egypt," the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party said in a statement.

European diplomats have called for Morsi’s release, and the US has called for the end of political detentions.

"This is an issue that goes beyond one individual," White House Spokesman Jay Carney said.

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