Monday 4 November 2013
As Mohamed Morsi goes to trial, General Sisi should remember: Egypt is a dangerous place to rule
The erstwhile President appears in court at a tense time even by Egypt's standards
It’s not every day you get to queue for a ticket to the trial of Egypt’s first elected president. But there was Mr Fouad sitting in the government press centre yesterday – exactly where I first saw him 37 years ago – happily telling us all to come back after five o’clock, as if he was arranging a junket up the Nile outside his office, rather than a front-row seat for the trial of former President Mohamed Morsi. No one had even told us where he is due to make his starring appearance today, nor whether he will appear in person at all.
Mr Morsi is to stand trial, along with 14 fellow Muslim Brotherhood members, for inciting people “to commit crimes of deliberate and premeditated murder” and “the use of violence, thuggery, coercion, possession of firearms, ammunition… and unlawfully arresting, detaining and torturing peaceful demonstrators.”
These incredible charges refer to violence outside the presidential palace in December when five civilians were killed – but they could just as well have been made against the cops and their ‘baltagi’ thugs who ran amok among the Brotherhood on a far bigger scale in August, killing more than 600 men, women and children. Thirty-six men were fried alive in a burning police truck on their way to prison.
Being an Egyptian leader, however – and if we get to see the man today, Mr Morsi will surely say he still is the president of Egypt – is a rather dodgy profession. King Farouk got deposed in 1952, but he was allowed to sail away on his royal yacht to Italy. General Mohamed Neguib was put under house arrest by Gamal Abdul Nasser and then Nasser died of a heart attack in 1970, three years after he lost his air force, his armies and the Sinai desert to Israel. Then one of his lesser officers, Anwar Sadat, won back part of the Sinai, visited Jerusalem and was shot dead by one of his own soldiers for making peace with Israel. His air force buddy Hosni Mubarak took over and ended up on trial following the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Gen Mubarak is now at the appeal stage, and today, his successor will also goes on trial.
We do not, of course, know the future fate of the man who chucked Mr Morsi out of power – the Beloved and Sublime General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi – who has yet to tell us whether he will stand for the Egyptian presidency. Watch out, is all I can say to him…
‘We are not amused’ is certainly the governing trait of Egypt’s current rulers, some of whom worked for Gen Mubarak and at least one of whom – the Beloved and Sublime General, no less – worked for Mr Morsi. Take the case of Mohamed Youssef, Egypt’s kung-fu champion and gold medalist at the St Petersburg championship last month, who was unwise enough to wear a T-shirt with the pro-Morsi symbol of four fingers of a hand held up against a yellow background. He wore it at the medal ceremony, he said, to remember friends among the victims of the massacre at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque in July. Too bad. He was flown home early and temporarily banned from taking part in competitions, with the full support of the Egyptian Minister of Sport.
This weekend, Bassem Youssef – heart surgeon and political humourist par excellence amid Egypt’s tawdry television shows – also got his come-uppance. Not once did Mr Morsi –while in power – respond to Youssef’s scurrilous and constant attacks on him and his Brotherhood friends, but one new programme that mocked the new, unelected Egyptian government, including the Beloved and Sublime General – though not by name – led to the station pulling Mr Youssef’s show. According to his critics, there were just too many obscenities in the programme on Egypt’s CBC channel. His supporters claim he will just move back to YouTube, where he began life as a satirist. And the programme that got censored? It was going to send up the country’s slovenly press.
The police, far from feeling any remorse about the August killings, are meanwhile having a field day exercising the post-14 August ‘state of emergency’ – the very law which the 2011 revolutionary demonstrators insisted should be cancelled. The police must now be informed of any demonstration 24 hours in advance, along with the names of all the organisers, and have permission to cancel any protest without reason. After howls from the country’s declining band of liberals, there will be a “dialogue” to discuss the law before Adly Mansour – who was Mr Morsi’s constitutional judge but is now acting president (and thus will not be in court with his old mate tomorrow) – rubber-stamps it.
Mr Morsi’s supporters are, however, promising more demonstrations on the streets of Cairo and other cities today, and the lads in blue – in Egypt, most of them wear rather dingy black uniforms – will be praying that the protestors do not disrupt Mr Morsi’s trial. If the police can find out where it’s being held, that is.