Charges Against Mohamed Morsi Launch New Wave Of Protests in Egypt
Things are not looking up for Egypt.
According to a recent judicial order, ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is now being imprisoned over allegations of plotting with the Palestinian militant group Hamas two years ago. As Reuters wrote, "The probe centers on charges that he conspired with... Hamas to flee jail during the 2011 uprising against veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak, killing some prisoners and officers, kidnapping soldiers and torching buildings." Whether the allegations are true or not, the news has helped spur a new wave of protests as confrontation between Islamists and secularists heats up, with violent clashes breaking out in the capital Cairo and in the country's second largest city, Alexandria.
According to the BBC, the order issued today is the first official statement on Morsi's judicial status since his overthrow, though "he has been held at an undisclosed location since his removal by the military on" July 3. Morsi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak also faced judicial challenges when he was deposed, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. It remains to be seen whether Morsi, unlike Mubarak, will triumph over his charges.
Morsi was Egypt's first democratically elected president. Since his removal earlier this month, more than 100 protesters and bystanders have died in clashes between his supporters and opponents. Militants of various (and often quite shady) organizations have also staged deadly attacks in the Sinai peninsula aimed at Egyptian military outposts.
Predictably, the Muslim Brotherhood says the charges against Morsi are false.
"At the end of the day, we know all of these charges are nothing more than the fantasy of a few army generals and a military dictatorship," Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said. "We are continuing our protests on the streets."
Upon hearing the news, thousands of Brotherhood supports swarmed northeast Cairo to attend a pro-Morsi vigil.
"Our blood and our souls for Islam!" the crowds yelled, their chants revealing just how polarized the largest Arab state has become. Combined with the fact that the army has threatened to "turn its guns" on those who use violence and that in response the Brotherhood has warned of civil war, this news seems quite pernicious.
Recent events make it difficult for me now to discern any path in Egypt's political future that avoids civil war.
Let's hope I'm wrong.