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Egypt orders arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leader as group rejects cabinet offer

July 10, 2013: Supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi protest as army soldiers guard at the Republican Guard building in Nasr City, in Cairo, Egypt.AP

Egypt ordered the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader and nine others for allegedly instigating violent clashes with the military this week that left more than 50 Brotherhood supporters dead, hours after the group rejected a plan to be part of the government's new cabinet.

The general prosecutor's office said in a statement Wednesday that it issued arrest warrants for the general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, as well as his deputy and strongman, Mahmoud Ezzat. Eight other leading Islamists also were ordered to be taken into custody.

The prosecutor's office says the Islamist leaders are suspected of inciting the violence outside the Republican Guard building in Cairo on Monday that left 54 people dead.

Badie is a revered figure among the Brotherhood's followers, who swear an oath of absolute obedience to him -- to "hear and obey."

Gehad El-Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, said the warrants are "nothing more than an attempt by the police state" to dismantle an ongoing protest at the Rabaa Adaweya mosque in Cairo, where thousands of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi are demanding his reinstatement, Reuters reports.

"What can we do? In a police state when the police force are criminals, the judiciary are traitors, and the investigators are the fabricators, what can one do?" he said.

Several of those being sought for arrest are at the site of the protest, according to Reuters.

Fathi Abdel-Wahab, a bearded protester in his 30s, said he and the others at the rally had legitimacy on their side.

"We will sacrifice ourselves and we will continue because we have a clear cause. We will defend it peacefully. ... We will never accept the military's coup," he said as he rested inside a tent near a group of people reciting verses from the Quran.

The arrest warrants came after the Muslim Brotherhood said it will deny any offer to join an interim government to replace the administration of Morsi.

Newly appointed Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi was to begin forming a Cabinet on Wednesday, and has said he will offer the Brotherhood -- which helped propel Morsi to the presidency -- posts in a new government.

But a Brotherhood spokesman dismissed any talk of joining a military-backed administration, and said talk of national reconciliation is "irrelevant." He spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns for his security.

Morsi was deposed on July 3 after four days of massive protests demanding he step down, prompting the military to step in and oust him.

Foreign Ministry spokeman Badr Abdel-Atti gave the first official word on Morsi in days, saying he is in a safe place and is being treated in a "very dignified manner." No charges have been leveled against him, Abdel-Atti said.

"For his own safety and for the safety of the country, it is better to keep him ... otherwise, consequences will be dire," he added.

Egyptians are hoping that the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Wednesday will significantly calm the turmoil in the streets. The sunrise-to-sunset fast cuts down on activity during the day, but the daily protests have been largely nocturnal affairs, and some observers expect the Islamist camp will likely use it to rally its base.

Interim President Adly Mansour called for a reconciliation process called "One People" to begin in Ramadan, traditionally a period for Muslims to promote unity. It called for parties and movements to hold meetings. But there was no sign the Brotherhood and its allies would attend, much like Morsi's opponents rejected his calls for dialogue, which were dismissed as empty gestures.

The country's interim leaders and military have been trying to fast-track a political transition process, and the armed forces have warned political factions that "maneuvering" must not hold up the speedy timetable that calls for new elections early next year. 

Under the new timetable issued Monday by Mansour, two appointed panels would draw up and approve amendments to the constitution, which would be put to a referendum within 4 1/2 months. Elections for a new parliament would be held within two months of that. Once the parliament convenes, it would have a week to set a date for presidential elections.

But the Muslim Brotherhood has denounced the transition plan, vowing to continue its street protests, and several other groups in the loose coalition participating in the political process were angered over it.

The secular, revolutionary youth movement Tamarod, which organized last week's massive protests against Morsi, criticized the plan, in part because it gives too much power to Mansour, including the power to issue laws. A post-Morsi plan put forward by Tamarod called for a largely ceremonial interim president with most power in the hands of the prime minister.

Tuesday's appointment of el-Beblawi as prime minister, along with the appointment of pro-democracy leader Mohamed ElBaradei, a leader of the National Salvation Front, as vice president, underlined the army's determination to push ahead in the face of Islamist opposition.

The naming of a prime minister was held up for days because the sole Islamist faction in the coalition, the ultraconservative Al-Nour Party, blocked candidates from secular, liberal and leftist groups. Those factions have been determined to have one of their own in the post.

El-Beblawi is a prominent economist and former finance minister from a liberal-secular camp -- albeit a less-controversial, well-known or prominent figure than ElBaradei.

He received a significant boost Tuesday in the form of $8 billion in promises of aid from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both opponents of Morsi's Brotherhood, who celebrated his ouster by showering the cash-strapped Egyptian government with promises of $8 billion in grants, loans and badly needed gas and oil.

In doing so, they are effectively stepping in for Morsi's Gulf patron Qatar, a close ally of the Brotherhood that gave his government several billion in aid. During Morsi's year in office, he and his officials toured multiple countries seeking cash to prop up rapidly draining foreign currency reserves and plug mounting deficits -- at times getting a cold shoulder.

The developments underlined the pressures on the new leaders even with the country still in turmoil after what Morsi's supporters have called a coup against democracy.

The military faces calls, from the U.S. and Western allies in particular, to show that civilians are in charge and Egypt is on a path toward a democratically-based leadership. The nascent government will soon face demands that it tackle economic woes that mounted under Morsi, including fuel shortages, electricity cutoffs and inflation.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Washington is "cautiously encouraged" by the announcement of a plan to return to democratically elected government. A senior U.S. official has told Fox News that four more F-16 fighter jets will be delivered to Egypt in the coming weeks.

Egypt still remains deeply polarized with heightened fears of violence, especially after Monday's shootings. The Brotherhood and Islamist allies say they are under siege by a military crackdown that has jailed five of their leaders and shut down their media outlets. Tens of thousands of Islamists massed on Tuesday for another day outside a Cairo mosque.

Still, there was no huge nationwide turnout that the Brotherhood leaders had called for after the killings. Also, for the first time since even before the June 30 protests began, Cairo's Tahrir Square -- where Morsi's opponents were centered -- was largely without crowds.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.