Turkey rounds up plot suspects after thwarting coup against Erdogan


Turkish authorities rounded up nearly 3,000 suspected military plotters on Saturday and ordered thousands of judges detained after thwarting a coup by rebels using tanks and attack helicopters to try to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

For several hours overnight on Friday violence shook Turkey's two main cities, as the armed faction which tried to seize power blocked a bridge in Istanbul and strafed the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in Ankara.

At least 265 people were killed. An official said 161 of them were mostly civilians and police officers, while the remaining 104 were coup supporters.

But the coup attempt crumbled as Erdogan rushed back to Istanbul from a Mediterranean holiday and urged people to take to the streets to support his government against plotters he accused of trying to kill him.

“They will pay a heavy price for this,” said Erdogan, launching a purge of the armed forces, which last used force to stage a successful coup more than 30 years ago. “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.”

Among those detained were top military commanders, including the head of the Second Army which protects the country's borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Hundreds of soldiers were held in Ankara for alleged involvement in the coup, leaving police stations overflowing.

Some had to be taken under armed police escort in buses to a sports stadium. Reuters footage showed some of the detainees, handcuffed and stripped from the waist up, sitting on the floor of one of the buses.

The government declared the situation under control, saying 2,839 people had been rounded up, from foot soldiers to senior officers, including those who formed “the backbone” of the rebellion.

Authorities also began a major crackdown in the judiciary over suspected links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, removing from their posts and ordering the detention of nearly 3,000 prosecutors and judges, including from top courts.

Erdogan has blamed the coup on supporters of Gulen, who he has frequently accused of trying to foment uprising in the military, media and judiciary.

Ten members of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors and two members of the Constitutional Court have already been detained, officials said.

OBAMA'S SUPPORT

A successful overthrow of Erdogan, who has ruled the country of about 80 million people since 2003, would have marked another seismic shift in the Middle East, five years after the Arab uprisings erupted and plunged Turkey's southern neighbor Syria into civil war.

However, a failed coup attempt could still destabilize the NATO member and major U.S. ally that lies between the European Union and the chaos of Syria, with Islamic State bombers targeting Turkish cities and the government also at war with Kurdish separatists.

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed support for Turkey's government and urged parties on all sides of the crisis to avoid destabilizing the country and follow the rule of law. But his secretary of state, John Kerry, warned Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that public suggestions of a U.S. role in the plot were “utterly false” and harmful to relations.

Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the southwest coast when the coup was launched, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and told thousands of flag-waving supporters at the airport that the government remained at the helm.

A polarizing figure whose Islamist-rooted ideology lies at odds with supporters of modern Turkey's secular principles, Erdogan said the plotters had tried to attack him in the resort town of Marmaris.

“They bombed places I had departed from right after I was gone,” he said. “They probably thought we were still there.”

Erdogan's AK Party has long had strained relations with the military, which has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism although it has not seized power directly since 1980.

His conservative religious vision for Turkey's future has also alienated many ordinary citizens who accuse him of authoritarianism. Police used heavy force in 2013 to suppress mass protests demanding more freedom.

He commands the admiration and loyalty of millions of Turks, however, particularly for raising living standards and restoring order to an economy once beset by regular crises, which grew 4.8 percent year-on-year in the first quarter.

The violence is likely to hit a tourism industry already suffering from the bombings, and business confidence is also vulnerable.

SMARTPHONE ADDRESS

In a night that sometimes verged on the bizarre, Erdogan frequently took to social media, even though he is an avowed enemy of the technology when his opponents use it and frequently targets Twitter and Facebook.

He addressed the nation via a video calling service, appearing on the smartphone of a CNN Turk reporter who held it up to a studio camera.

He also urged Washington to deport Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. The cleric, who once supported Erdogan but became a leading adversary, condemned the attempted coup and said he played no role in it.

“As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations,” Gulen said in a statement.

Kerry said the United States was willing to help Turkey as it tries to identify those involved in the coup attempt, but made clear it would only act if there was evidence against Gulen.

SOLDIERS SURRENDER

Gunfire and explosions had rocked both Istanbul and Ankara through the night after soldiers took up positions in both cities and ordered state television to read out a statement declaring they had taken power. However, by dawn the noise of fighting had died down considerably.

About 50 soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on one of the bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul after dawn on Saturday, abandoning their tanks with their hands raised in the air. Reuters witnesses saw government supporters attack the pro-coup soldiers who had surrendered.

By Saturday afternoon, CNN Turk reported that security forces had completed an operation against coup plotters at the headquarters of the military general staff. Security sources also said police detained about 100 military officers at an air base in the southeast.

Neighboring Greece arrested eight men aboard a Turkish military helicopter which landed in the northern city of Alexandroupolis on Saturday, the Greek police ministry said, adding that they had requested political asylum.

At one stage military commanders were held hostage by the plotters and by Saturday evening — 24 hours after the coup was launched — some operations against rebels were continuing.

Cavusoglu, the foreign minister, said soldiers at the Incirlik air base, used by the United States to launch air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, were involved in the attempt. He said Turkey would resume operations with the U.S.-led coalition once the anti-coup operations were completed.

LAWMAKERS IN HIDING

The coup began with warplanes and helicopters roaring over Ankara and troops moving in to seal off the bridges over the Bosphorus, which separates Europe and Asia in Istanbul.

Turkish maritime authorities reopened the Bosphorus to transiting tankers after shutting the major trade route from the Black Sea to the Aegean for several hours for security and safety reasons.

In the early hours of Saturday, lawmakers hid in shelters inside the parliament building, which was fired on by tanks. An opposition deputy told Reuters that parliament was hit three times and people had been wounded.

When parliament convened later in the day, the four main political parties – running the gamut from Erdogan's right-wing Islamist-rooted AK Party to the left-of-center, pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) – came together in a rare show of unity to condemn the attempted coup.

A Turkish military commander also said fighter jets had shot down a helicopter used by the coup plotters over Ankara.

Momentum turned against the coup plotters as the night wore on. Crowds defied orders to stay indoors, gathering at major squares in Istanbul and Ankara, waving flags and chanting.

“We have a prime minister, we have a chief of command, we're not going to leave this country to degenerates,” shouted one man, as groups of government supporters climbed onto a tank near Ataturk airport.

Kerry said he had phoned the Turkish foreign minister and underlined “absolute support for Turkey's democratically elected, civilian government and democratic institutions”.

FLIGHTS RESUME

Flag carrier Turkish Airlines resumed flights on Saturday, though some foreign carriers canceled weekend flights.

At the height of the action, rebel soldiers took control of TRT state television, which announced a countrywide curfew and martial law. An announcer read a statement on the orders of the pro-coup faction that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. Turkey would be run by a “peace council” that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.

Turkey is one of the main backers of opponents of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war and hosts 2.7 million Syrian refugees. It was a departure point last year for the biggest influx of migrants to Europe since World War Two.

Turkey has suffered numerous bombings and shootings this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Ataturk airport that killed more than 40 people, as well as those staged by Kurdish militants.

After serving as prime minister from 2003, Erdogan was elected president in 2014 with plans to alter the constitution to give the previously ceremonial presidency far greater executive powers.

Turkey’s Erodgan safe as group in military attempts coup, presidential source says


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is safe, a presidential source said on Friday, adding that a statement made on behalf of the armed forces announcing a takeover of the government was not authorised by the military command.

The source also urged the world to “stand in solidarity” with the Turkish people.

Turkey's military said on Friday it had seized power, but the prime minister said the attempted coup would be put down.

In court, defiant Morsi says he is still Egypt’s president


Ousted Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi, given his first public forum since his overthrow in a trial where he could face execution, declared on Monday he was still Egypt's legitimate president and shouted: “Down with military rule!”

Morsi, an Islamist who was toppled by the army in July after mass protests against him, spoke with anger and passion, interrupting the first day of his trial repeatedly from his cage during an unruly hearing that the judge adjourned to January 8.

State television aired brief footage of Morsi, the first public sighting of the president since his overthrow in July. Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, had been kept in an undisclosed location since then.

“I am Dr. Mohamed Morsi. I am president of the republic,” said Morsi.

Inside the courtroom, anti-Morsi Egyptian journalists chanted “execution”, “execution” as the deposed leader did his best to challenge the authority of the court, shouting repeatedly at the judge whose legitimacy he refused to accept.

“We are in a state, not a (military) camp. Down down with military rule,” said Morsi. “I am a witness that what is happening is a part of a military coup. I ask the Egyptian judiciary to not act as a cover for the military coup.”

The judge repeatedly asked Morsi to stop giving long speeches. “Please answer the question, do you agree to have a lawyer representing you?” judge Ahmed Sabry said.

Opponents of Egypt's army-backed government deride what they call a “show trial” as part of a campaign to crush Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement and revive the police state of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule that ended in a 2011 popular revolt.

Hundreds of people were killed in the months that followed Morsi's overthrow, including many hundreds shot dead by police and troops who cleared out a weeks-long protest vigil by Morsi's supporters. Thousands of followers have been rounded up.

Egypt has become fiercely divided, with state media lionizing the military and police for their crackdown on “terrorists”, while the Brotherhood, once the country's most powerful political force, has retreated to the shadows where it spent more than 80 years as an underground movement.

Morsi, 62, who like many Islamists was also jailed under Mubarak, now faces charges of inciting violence that could carry the death penalty.

It is the second time Egypt has put an ousted president on trial since 2011, and taking place in the same venue – a police academy hall – where Mubarak has faced retrial over his conviction for complicity in killing protesters.

Morsi and 14 other Islamists face charges of inciting violence relating to the deaths of about a dozen people in clashes outside the presidential palace in December after Morsi enraged his opponents with a decree expanding his powers.

After stepping out of a white van and buttoning his jacket, he appeared in a cage in the courtroom beside other Islamist defendants, who were in white prison garb. They applauded when Morsi arrived, gave the Brotherhood's four-fingered salute, and at times turned their backs on the court.

“This trial is illegitimate,” said Morsi, who was dressed in a dark suit. “This is a criminal military coup.”

Hundreds of Morsi's supporters gathered outside the court building. One sign read: “The people's will has been raped”.

SECURITY PRESENCE

Trial proceedings were not aired on state television and journalists were barred from bringing telephones into the courtroom. Senior Brotherhood figures among the defendants used the chance to tell reporters they had been mistreated.

“I have been kept in my cell for 60 days,” Brotherhood leader Mohamed El-Beltagi told Reuters in the courtroom from inside a cage holding defendants. “I have been held under water in my cell and this has happened to other members.”

Another Islamist in the cage, Alaa Hamza, said he was tortured and lifted his shirt to show reporters what he said were torture marks.

After the hearing, Morsi was taken to Borg al-Arab prison in Alexandria.

The military establishment's return to the forefront of power prompted Washington to cut some military aid, although Washington has not said whether the overthrow was a “coup”, language that would require it to halt aid to one of its biggest clients. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Cairo on Sunday, expressed guarded optimism about a return to democracy.

The uprising that toppled Mubarak in 2011 had raised hopes that Egypt would embrace democracy and human rights and eventually enjoy economic prosperity.

Instead, the power struggle between the Brotherhood and the army-backed establishment has created more uncertainty in the country of 85 million which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal. Tourism and investment have collapsed.

INCITING VIOLENCE

The Brotherhood won repeated elections since Mubarak's fall. But millions of Egyptians grew disillusioned with Morsi's troubled one-year rule and took to the streets to demand his resignation. They accused Morsi of usurping power and mismanaging the economy, allegations he denied.

“We didn't see as much misery in the 30 years of Mubarak as much as we saw in one year of Morsi,” said Ali, a driver who was sipping morning tea at a cafe in downtown Cairo.

“He fooled us with his year in power.”

The army, saying it was responding to the will of the people, deposed Morsi and announced a political road map it said would lead to free and fair elections.

But the promises have not reassured Western allies, who had hoped six decades of rule by military men would be broken. Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled Morsi, is very popular, and few doubt he would win if he runs for president.

The Brotherhood maintains Morsi's removal was a coup that reversed the democratic gains made after Mubarak's overthrow.

Mohamed Damaty, a volunteer defence lawyer for Morsi, said:

“It is clear that the goal of this trial as well as any action against the Muslim Brotherhood is to wipe out the group as well as any Islamist movements from political life.”

Additional reporting by Hadeel al-Shalchi, Asma Alsharif, Shadia Nasralla and Shaimaa Fayed; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Michael Georgy, Giles Elgood and Peter Graff

Lessons for Brotherhood and why Turkey is still the model for Egypt


Let me start by saying that Turkey needs to believe that the right thing to do is to act together with Israel, and that it must embrace the language of friendship. If Turkey is allied with Israel, the scourges raining down on the region would be resolved in a short period of time. The bloodshed in Syria, the turmoil in Egpt and the general downward spiral would not be continuing in this way for long. The region is devoid of an alliance of democratic, secular and reasonable power houses. So I urge Turkey to resolve the Mavi Marmara crisis rather than prolonging the issue at such a tense time and establish a solid friendship and alliance with Israel right away. While Israel is surrounded by countries demanding its annihilation and promoting the most ruthless anti-Jewish propaganda, it is an absolute necessity for Turkey to show the true spirit of Islam with regards to Jews and Christians, and be a true role model for the Islamic-majority countries in the region.

Just like Egypt, the military was a powerful political player in Turkey and had been the most trustworthy institution, and their engagement had always found support among many, so the July 3rd coup in Egypt is a familiar scene for the Turks. Seeing how similar the rhetoric is, it felt as if Chief of Staff Kenan Evren’s long-ago speech was echoing in Egypt: “We want to prevent a civil war, and we are only interfering to stop clashes between the left and the right.”

Turkey suffered for a long time by having two heads, civilian and military, in the legal system but it has since opened the way in firmly establishing civilian jurisdiction over crimes committed by military personnel since 2009. And now Turkey is about to make another step towards democratization: The Turkish government only a few weeks ago proposed a set of changes to the constitution to eliminate the possibility of the military getting involved in domestic affairs; in other words, this will remove the threat of a future junta. Since 1934 the Turkish military was responsible for “protecting” the Turkish Republic from threats within and abroad. If the change in Article 35 is approved, the military’s responsibility will be limited strictly to threats from abroad.

Considering four coups since 1950 and what the last bloody 1980 coup had brought (650,000 arrests, 50 executions, 171 deaths by torture, tens of thousands of citizens forced to flee abroad,) Turks have had enough. However, democratisation has neither been an easy nor a quick process but it definitely needed uncompromising resoluteness.

Since divisive language has become dominant, the demonizing of the “other” side has become commonplace and since trust has been lost between the political camps in Egypt, a third party — like Turkey — can indeed play a role to facilitate reconciliation. It is not just about Turkey’s experience with coups and democratization efforts but it is about how an Islamic-based party can have a place as a three-time elected government within the democratic arena. Yes, there are serious demands from the Turkish government for a more inclusive style where everyone feels free to express their demands, and they certainly have their critics and so on; and all of this will hopefully progress. Yet despite the recent protests against the AKP government, the model in Turkey can still be a stepping stone for Muslim majority countries like Egypt.

However, since Egypt is going through a historic reform from a dictatorship to democracy, this should be done with a broad-based consultative system made up of all parties, including and reflecting all points of view. Obviously there has to be compromise from all sides for the sake of harmony and unity of Egypt.

The Brotherhood and its political branch, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), however, have many lessons to learn and they indeed have to change themselves a lot. The failure of President Mohamed Morsi was in neglecting very crucial values that have been ignored by almost the whole Muslim world as well. What we have seen in general was a dead, corrupt, bigoted system being espoused and imposed; however, their new goal should be to emphasize the importance of modern, extroverted, loving people and embracing a style that advocates art and science. People are invariably happier with cleanliness, with art, with green spaces, and they seek out music, sculpture, painting, aesthetic architecture and beauty.

Now that this unwanted scenario has happened, the leaders of the Brotherhood should be pioneers for a reform towards a modern understanding of Islam and take a stance against bigotry. They should embrace Jews and Christians in front of cameras; in their speeches they should embrace all people from all walks of life including communists, atheists, etc. They should express the beauties of freedoms, and provide a comfortable atmosphere even for the most vocal critics.

Another crucial emphasis should be for the rights and freedoms of women. They should show their love and respect for women, and bring them to the front, regardless of their style of dress. They should embrace a secular model, as in Turkey, accepting all as equal and first class citizens, and providing religious freedom for all. The Brotherhood being in close coordination with Turkey would be an advantageous way for them to make fast progress.

Finally, the Brotherhood should embrace a policy that will comfort the Israelis and the ones who hold it dear to themselves and they should scrupulously avoid things that could raise tensions. They have to end the anti-Israel rhetoric and show their compassion for Jews and Christians, as a requirement of their belief as well. In point of simple fact, they should not be enemies with anyone, not even with their opponents: This is essential to silence the guns, and to end the division even if it is a one-sided effort. From now on, they should focus on solutions.

I am aware that this is far from what the Brotherhood stands for at the moment, but there could be significant developments through intense educational programs via television and social programs designed to change the fanatical mindset in its administration and social structure, and replace it with a far more inclusive approach. 


Sinem Tezyapar is an Executive Producer at a Turkish TV. She is a political and religious commentator, peace activist and is the spokesperson of a prominent international interfaith organization, as well as its coordinator for international relations with political and religious leaders. She is working with interparlimentary and non governmental organizations for the establishment of the United Nations Permanent Forum for a Culture of Peace and Global Ethics. She can be reached via @SinemTezyapar

Egyptian army threatens to shoot violent protesters


Egypt's army threatened on Thursday to shoot those who use violence in a stark warning before what both sides expect will be a bloody street showdown between Islamists and opponents of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

An army official said the military had set Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood an ultimatum, giving it until Saturday to sign up to a plan for political reconciliation which it has so far spurned.

The army has summoned Egyptians into the streets on Friday in an intended turning point in its confrontation with followers of Morsi, the elected leader the generals removed on July 3.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has maintained a street vigil for a month with thousands of supporters demanding Morsi's reinstatement, has called its own crowds out for counter-demonstrations across Egypt in a “day to remove the coup.”

Both sides have dramatically escalated rhetoric before Friday's demonstrations. The Brotherhood accused the army of pushing the nation towards civil war and committing a crime worse than destroying Islam's holiest site.

In a Facebook post, the army said it will not “turn its guns against its people, but it will turn them against black violence and terrorism which has no religion or nation”.

A military official said the army had given the Brotherhood 48 hours from Thursday afternoon to join the political process. He did not say what would happen if it refuses.

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called on Egyptians to take to the streets and give him a “mandate” to act against the violence that has convulsed Egypt since he shunted its first freely elected president from power.

The Brotherhood, which has won repeated elections since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, accuses the authorities of stirring up the violence to justify their crackdown.

Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, an influential Egyptian cleric based in Qatar, issued a religious edict broadcast on Al Jazeera television urging soldiers to disobey orders to kill.

“I call on officers and soldiers in the Egyptian army not to listen to what al-Sisi says, or anyone else. Do not kill anyone. Do not kill your brothers. It is forbidden,” Qaradawi declared.

The main anti-Morsi youth protest group, which has backed the army, said it would go to the streets to “cleanse Egypt”.

The West is increasingly alarmed at the course taken by Egypt, a strategic hinge between the Middle East and North Africa, since protests in 2011 brought down Mubarak and ended decades of autocratic rule in the most populous Arab state.

Signaling its displeasure, Washington has delayed delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Cairo. On Thursday, the White House urged the army to exercise “maximum restraint and caution”.

The United States has yet to decide whether to call the military's takeover a “coup”, language that would require it to halt $1.5 billion it sends in annual aid, mostly for the army.

“CLEANSE EGYPT”

For weeks, the authorities have rounded up some Brotherhood officials but tolerated the movement's presence on the streets, with thousands of people attending its pro-Morsi vigil and tens of thousands appearing at its demonstrations.

That patience seems to have run out. Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, head of the interim cabinet installed by the army, said there was growing violence by increasingly well-armed protesters, citing a bomb attack on a police station.

“The presence of weapons, intimidation, fear – this causes concern, especially when there are calls for many to come out tomorrow from different sides,” he told a news conference.

After a month nearly 200 people have died in political violence, many fear the protests will lead to more bloodshed.

Past incidents of violence have tended to run through the night and into the following day. Another security official forecast clashes beginning Friday night and stretching into Saturday, the period covered by the army's ultimatum. He also indicated that the two-day period was expected to be decisive.

“The history of Egypt will be written on those days,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

Reiterating his group's commitment to peaceful protest, senior Brotherhood politician Farid Ismail accused the security services of readying militias to attack Morsi supporters, adding that Sisi aimed to drag Egypt into civil war.

“His definition of terrorism is anyone who disagrees with him,” Ismail told Reuters. “We are moving forward in complete peacefulness, going forward to confront this coup.”

Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie accused Sisi of committing a crime worse than destroying the Kaaba – the site in Mecca to which all Muslims face when they pray – “brick by brick”.

But many Egyptians are no less passionately backing the army, determined to see the Brotherhood reined in.

“There are men carrying guns on the street … We will not let extremists ruin our revolution,” said Mohammed Abdul Aziz, a spokesman for Tamarud, an anti-Morsi petition campaign that mobilized protests against his rule.

“Tomorrow we will cleanse Egypt,” he told Reuters.

UNCOMPROMISING

Sisi's speech on Wednesday pointed to the deepening confrontation between the Brotherhood and the military establishment, which has reasserted its role at the heart of government even as it says it aims to steer clear of politics.

Saying it moved against Morsi in response to the biggest popular protests in Egypt's history, the army installed an interim cabinet that plans to hold parliamentary elections in about six months, to be followed by a presidential vote.

The Brotherhood says it wants nothing to do with the transition plan. With Morsi still in military detention at an undisclosed location, there is slim hope for compromise.

Egypt remains deeply split over what happened on July 3. The Brotherhood accuses the army of ejecting a democratically elected leader in a long-planned coup, while its opponents say the army responded to the will of the people.

Sisi announced the nationwide rallies after the bombing of a police station in Mansoura, a city north of Cairo, in which a policeman was killed. The government called it a terrorist attack. The Brotherhood also condemned the bombing, accusing the establishment of seeking to frame it.

Since Morsi was deposed, hardline Islamist groups have intensified a violent campaign against the state in the lawless Sinai Peninsula, with near-daily attacks on the police and army.

Two more soldiers were killed on Thursday in an attack on a checkpoint, security and medical sources said.

At the Brotherhood protest camp near a Cairo mosque, Morsi supporters said they expected the army to provoke violence to justify its crackdown. “The army itself will strike. They will use thugs and the police,” said medical student Sarah Ahmad, 24.

Essam wl-Erian, another senior Brotherhood politician, accused “the putschists” of trying to recreate a police state, telling a televised news conference: “This state will never return, and Egypt will not go backwards.”

Additional reporting by Tom Perry and Maggie Fick, Noah Browning, Tom Finn, Shadia Nasralla, Asma Alsharif and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Tom Perry and Matt Robinson; Editing by Peter Graff and Alistair Lyon

U.S. lawmakers may ease ‘coup’ ban on aid to Egypt


U.S. lawmakers will begin to vote as soon as next week on legislation that could continue aid to Egypt even if the Obama administration determines that the ouster of elected President Mohamed Mursi was a military coup, lawmakers and aides said on Thursday.

The United States currently sends $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid to Egypt each year, but the military coup label would cut off the flow under a U.S. law dating to the 1980s.

As a result, the White House and State Department have so far refused to characterize Mursi's ouster as a coup, with administration officials often resorting to verbal gymnastics to avoid using the word.

Republican U.S. Representative Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House of Representatives subcommittee in charge of the aid, said her panel was considering allowing more flexibility, such as language that would allow the aid to continue if doing so were deemed to be in the U.S. national security interest.

The law as currently written bans the administration from waiving the restriction, even if the administration judges it to be important for national security.

“There is not a waiver (provision) in the coup legislation,” Granger told Reuters in an interview. “That could be changed, however, if the Congress says we are going to allow a waiver.”

PAKISTAN AID PRECEDENT?

Congress approved President George W. Bush's request to allow aid to Pakistan's government after the September 11, 2001, attacks, despite the ouster of its government in a coup.

Lawmakers said a similar bill was one possibility for Egypt. They said another possibility would be rewriting the law on foreign aid to allow waivers for national security reasons more routinely.

The House subcommittee is due to begin considering aid to Egypt this month, possibly as soon as next week.

The Senate subcommittee also expects to vote on its version of the legislation this month, likely during the week of July 23, aides said.

After the state and foreign operations subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations committees debate and vote on their versions of the bill, the measures will be voted on by the full committees before being sent for a vote by the full House and Senate.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate panel, has said he considers Mursi's ouster a coup, although the ultimate determination is up to the administration. A spokesman said the Senate panel is not now considering a provision in its legislation to waive the coup requirement.

However, Senator John Boozman, a Republican subcommittee member, said he was open to the possibility of a waiver, depending on the situation in Egypt, noting the long-term close relationship between U.S. officials and the U.S. military.

“With the situation as it is now, I would certainly be open to having that discussion,” he told Reuters. “And right now my tendency would be to vote for the waiver and, again, we'll just have to wait and see what happens.”

President Barack Obama asked Congress to appropriate $1.55 billion in aid for Egypt for fiscal 2014, including $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic assistance.

Committee members and aides from both panels said it was too soon to comment on whether they would approve that level of aid, because the situation in Egypt is changing so rapidly.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Tough congressional language limits Obama’s Egypt options


When it comes to foreign assistance, American law couldn’t be clearer: A coup d’etat suspends funding, period.

But that directive, which has persisted for years in federal appropriations bills, is now clashing with another congressional priority: the apparent desire to foster an alternative to Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s democratically elected Islamist president who was removed from power this week by the Egyptian military.

In recent months, Congress has intimated that it would be happier if his secular foes in the military were running the country. But the law ties Congress’ hands.

On July 3, President Obama said he would “review” what the coup means for American aid.

“We are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution,” Obama said in a statement. “I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.”

Following mass demonstrations from an increasing restive population, Morsi was removed this week and replaced with the country’s chief justice, Adli Mansour, in the latest development to roil Egypt and a region already on edge from Syria’s ongoing civil war.

The United States provides some $1.8 billion in aid to Egypt annually, most of it defense assistance conditioned on Egypt’s observance of the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Congressional leaders cited those circumstances in suggesting that the Obama administration work with the interim government.

But other lawmakers, while noting the flaws in Morsi’s leadership and the popular uprising that led to his ouster, underscored that the language in the appropriations bill left virtually no wiggle room.

“Egypt’s military leaders say they have no intent or desire to govern, and I hope they make good on their promise,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the longtime chairman of the Senate’s foreign operations appropriation subcommittee. “In the meantime, our law is clear: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree. As we work on the new budget, my committee also will review future aid to the Egyptian government as we wait for a clearer picture.”

Unlike many other spending provisions, the language regarding a coup d’etat does not include a presidential waiver. That leaves the Obama administration three options for working around the provision: Obtain congressional agreement to add a waiver within the next few weeks; accelerate the democratic replacement of Egypt’s interim government; or use executive privilege to work around the lack of a congressional waiver.

The first two options are unlikely. Congress can barely agree on a budget, let alone a waiver on a sensitive issue like Egypt. And with Egypt already roiling with violence, its military would be loath to facilitate the return of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to power through a hastily arranged election.

The third option — exercising the prerogative of the president to advance foreign policy — could undercut U.S. credibility overseas, conveying an impression Obama has tried to correct: that the United States supports the powers it prefers, regardless of the will of the people.

Obama appears to be hoping for the democracy option. In conversations with Egyptian officials, Obama’s national security team “emphasized the importance of a quick and responsible return of full authority to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told JTA.

The power and the mandate in Egypt


Mohamed Morsi is now out, and it is virtually impossible for him to pull off a personal comeback in the near future. His downfall is a result of his and the Muslim Brotherhood’s unsophisticated view of democracy in conjunction with their naïve assumption that they had real power. This combination proved to be a fatal mistake. They mistakenly assumed that once Morsi was elected by a majority of voters (not the majority of the people), he was given both the mandate and the power to rule. The truth of any democracy is that neither of these assumptions is automatically true.

Morsi’s failed mandate

Morsi was given his mandate by a narrow majority, and only of those voting — not the Egyptian people. His mandate was provisional. Many of those demonstrating in Tahrir Square and elsewhere did not vote. Certain activist groups withdrew from the process because they were afraid they would give legitimacy to the Muslim Brotherhood. Others voted for Morsi but were against the Muslim Brotherhood. Why would they vote for Morsi yet oppose the Brotherhood? Because the election was manipulated to be a vote between the Brotherhood represented by Morsi, and the military represented by Ahmed Shafiq. Many preferred even a Muslim Brotherhood activist to the military. Morsi’s mandate was short-lived because it became obvious to all who are not hard-core Muslim Brotherhood supporters that he was not interested in real democracy. Many of those who had voted for him last year publicly opposed him in recent days. The extraordinary number of demonstrators proved how disappointed the country was with his failure to govern properly.

Where lies the power in Egypt?

The Egyptian military proved without a shadow of a doubt where the power lies in Egypt. Morsi was deposed in five minutes after a 48-hour warning and without really firing a shot. This is a powerful message to the Egyptian people. The power lies with the Egyptian armed forces. If a political leader or party does not please the army, they will eventually be in trouble. Note the parallel, by the way, with Turkey until only recently — but that’s a different discussion.

The military

The military clearly has the power. At this moment, from the clear message of the current round of demonstrations, it also has the popular mandate. The question that needs to be considered most urgently is, what does the military want?

The military does not want to govern directly. It has experienced that, it did it badly, and it wanted out. That is why there were democratic elections. The army allowed elections and supported them.

The army wants Egypt to be functional. That is its bottom line. It does not care much about democracy. The culture of military life does not promote feelings of democracy. Armies can only function properly when officers give orders without discussion and debate. But whether the army is pro-democracy, anti-democracy, or simply a-democracy, it sees its major responsibility to defend the country from outsiders and not insiders. It does not want to deploy on the streets and fight against its own citizens.

The army does not want to govern, but it wants the country to be functional, and it is here where it can be influenced. Those forces or parties that seem most capable of running a functional country, while channeling to the army the resources that it considers its due, will get the support of the army.

The old regime

Mubarak was the person in authority, but he did not really have the power. When it became clear to the military that Mubarak was a liability, he was simply removed. He was no longer able to control the street, so he was eliminated. The military was loved for their act because it was seen as the salvation of Egypt and the source of a new hope for democracy. But remember that democracy is unimportant for the military. They can take it or leave it, as long as their position is protected and the country will be functional. It is certainly not functional now, but the military is the only institution at this point that has the time, patience and resources to work through the ups and downs and stay on top of the situation.

In the meantime, the entire bureaucracy of the Egyptian state was staffed with people who were loyal to Mubarak — who was loyal to the military. The military has always feared and hated the Muslim Brotherhood, so when Morsi took over the leadership of the Egyptian bureaucracy as president, his efforts at running the system were stonewalled. He failed on his own accord to work with anybody who was not Brotherhood, but he failed in the normal bureaucratic running of the country because he was set up to fail. 

The street

The biggest change that the Arab Spring brought to the Arab world is the lesson that the Arab people now, after centuries of lethargy and indifference, are willing to rise up against what they consider to be unacceptable governance. That has been a shock to everybody, including the military two years ago and the Muslim Brotherhood last week. Recall that the Brotherhood only joined the demonstrations when it saw that it had no choice. Brotherhood leaders realized that to hold back would have cost them a sense of legitimacy in Egyptian society. And last week, we saw that Morsi and the Brotherhood completely misread the willingness of the people to rise up in self-sacrifice yet again in order to improve their unhappy lives.

The inherent problem with “the street” is that it is such a big tent that it can only articulate general demands. It cannot deal with specifics. The specifics need to be worked out democratically, but Egypt has no real experience with the process of democracy. That is one of the reasons why Morsi failed. He failed to act like a mature and caring ruler. He failed to work with his opposition. He failed to find solutions through compromise. Like many other Egyptians, Morsi did not understand that once in power a leader still needs to continue to listen to the will of the people.

This, by the way, is a very important observation for those who have said that Egypt will be a democratic country only for the span of one election. Once the Muslim Brotherhood is democratically elected, they said, that will be the end of democracy. The street has proven otherwise, and all Egyptians now understand this. So does the army. It was the will and support of the people that enabled Morsi to sideline the army when he did so some months ago. It was the will of the people that gave the army the opportunity to assert itself once again this week. There is a lot of potential with the street (i.e., the will of the people), but it has to be measured fairly and managed effectively. The current process of calling out the masses for vague demands for change does neither, and so far, its success is only partial.

The military coup

The removal of Morsi was a military coup. Some people call it a revolution because it had the support of the street and probably a significant majority of the Egyptian people. But it was not a popular revolution, and what happened is not really a new phenomenon in Egypt. The “Free Officers Movement” that brought Nasser to power in the 1950s also had the vague support of the street. It was not a revolution either, and the result was a military dictatorship that has endured ever since. 

So we are now at a moment when the military, with the blessing of the majority of the Egyptian people, has actually put a brake on the democratic process. The process was flawed but was nevertheless an important movement in the right direction. The military is now the obvious power in Egypt and will remain so for the immediate future. It is working with various factions, but always with the same goal of remaining at the core of the system.

What has changed?

Actually a lot, in fact a sea change among the Egyptian people as a whole. An overwhelming majority of Egyptians — secular, religious, on the left and right of center as well as in the middle — want more freedom, support for diversity, more economic opportunity and an end to cronyism. They want equal opportunity and a fair chance to build their lives, and many are willing to fight and risk their lives to achieve it. On the other hand, they have not experienced true democracy and they have shown that they do not understand its processes. They have little experience dealing with the difficult life of political barter, and they have virtually no Egyptian role models aside from military or religious leadership, neither of which is particularly interested in democratic ideals. The Egyptian people need to develop their own version of democratic governance, and they are struggling with making that happen. We will see in the next months and years whether the will of the people will translate into a truly functional democracy.


Rabbi Reuven Firestone is professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles and co-director of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement at the University of California.

Egyptian army says Morsi is out, appoints interim head of state


Egypt's armed forces overthrew elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday and announced a political transition with the support of a wide range of political, religious and youth leaders.

After a day of drama in which tanks and troops deployed near the presidential palace as a military deadline for Morsi to yield to mass protests passed, the top army commander announced on television that the president had “failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people”.

Flanked by political and religious leaders and top generals, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the suspension of the Islamist-tinged constitution and a roadmap for a return to democratic rule under a revised rulebook.

The president of the supreme constitutional court will act as interim head of state, assisted by an interim council and a technocratic government until new presidential and parliamentary elections are held.

“Those in the meeting have agreed on a roadmap for the future that includes initial steps to achieve the building of a strong Egyptian society that is cohesive and does not exclude anyone and ends the state of tension and division,” Sisi said in a solemn address broadcast live on state television.

After he spoke, hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters in central Cairo's Tahrir Square erupted into wild cheering, setting off fireworks and waving flags. Cars drove around the capital honking their horns in celebration.

But a statement published in Morsi's name on his official Facebook page after Sisi's speech said the measures announced amounted to “a full military coup” and were “totally rejected”.

The Arab world's most populous nation has been in turmoil since the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak as Arab Spring uprisings took hold in early 2011, arousing concern among allies in the West and in Israel, with which Egypt has a 1979 peace treaty.

The Muslim Brotherhood president, in office for just a year, was at a Republican Guard barracks surrounded by barbed wire, barriers and troops, but it was not clear whether he was under arrest. The state newspaper Al-Ahram said the military had told Morsi at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) that he was no longer head of state.

“TERRORISTS AND FOOLS”

Military chiefs, vowing to restore order in a country racked by protests over Morsi's Islamist policies, earlier issued a call to battle in a statement headlined “The Final Hours”. They said they were willing to shed blood against “terrorists and fools”.

Armoured vehicles took up position outside the state broadcasting headquarters on the Nile River bank, where soldiers patrolled the corridors and non-essential staff were sent home.

In another show of force, several hundred soldiers with armoured vehicles staged a parade near the presidential palace, and security sources said Morsi and the entire senior leadership of his Muslim Brotherhood were banned from leaving the country.

Security sources told Reuters the authorities had sent a list of at least 40 leading members of the Brotherhood to airport police.

In a last-ditch statement a few minutes before the deadline, Morsi's office said a coalition government could be part of a solution to overcome the political crisis. But opposition parties refused to negotiate with him and met instead with the commander of the armed forces.

The Brotherhood's Egypt25 television station had broadcast live coverage of a rally of tens of thousands of Morsi supporters, even as the army moved tanks into position to prevent them from marching on the presidential palace or the Republican Guard barracks.

U.S. oil prices rose to a 14-month high above $100 a barrel partly on fears that unrest in Egypt could destabilise the Middle East and lead to supply disruption.

The massive anti-Morsi protests showed that the Brotherhood had not only alienated liberals and secularists by seeking to entrench Islamic rule, notably in a new constitution, but had also angered millions of Egyptians with economic mismanagement.

Tourism and investment have dried up, inflation is rampant and fuel supplies are running short, with power cuts lengthening in the summer heat and motorists spending hours fuelling cars.

Earlier, Morsi's spokesman said it was better that he die in defence of democracy than be blamed by history.

“It is better for a president, who would otherwise be returning Egypt to the days of dictatorship, from which God and the will of the people has saved us, to die standing like a tree,” spokesman Ayman Ali said, “Rather than be condemned by history and future generations for throwing away the hopes of Egyptians for establishing a democratic life.”

Liberal opponents said a rambling late-night television address by Morsi showed he had “lost his mind”.

The official spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood said supporters were willing to become martyrs to defend Morsi.

“There is only one thing we can do: we will stand in between the tanks and the president,” Gehad El-Haddad told Reuters at the movement's protest encampment in a Cairo suburb that houses many military installations and is near the presidential palace.

The country's two main religious leaders, the head of the Al-Azhar Islamic institute and the Coptic Pope, both expressed their support for the army's roadmap in speeches after Sisi, as did the main liberal opposition leader, Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.

Reporting by Asma Alsharif, Alexander Dziadosz, Shaimaa Fayed, Maggie Fick, Alastair Macdonald, Shadia Nasralla, Tom Perry, Yasmine Saleh, Paul Taylor, Ahmed Tolba and Patrick Werr in Cairo, Abdelrahman Youssef in Alexandria, Yursi Mohamed in Ismailia and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Peter Millership and Giles Elgood

Egypt’s Morsi quoted as calling army action a military coup


The Facebook page of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi quoted him on Wednesday as saying he rejected measures announced by the army as a “military coup.”

The army, in a statement aired live on television, appointed a new, interim administration to replace Morsi as president, suspended the constitution and called for an early presidential election.

It was unclear whether Morsi has access to his own Facebook page or if the statement was posted by an aide.

Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Writing by Patrick Werr; Editing by Yasmine Saleh

U.S. declines to criticize Egypt’s military as it ousts Morsi


The United States declined on Wednesday to criticize Egypt's military, even as it was ousting Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi from power.

Minutes before Egypt's army commander announced that Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, had been deposed and the constitution suspended, the U.S. State Department criticized Morsi, but gave no public signal it was opposed to the army's action.

Asked whether the Egyptian army had the legitimacy to remove Morsi from power, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “We're not taking sides in this.”

The muted U.S. response – at least thus far – to the dramatic events in Cairo suggested that Washington may be willing to accept the military's move as a way of ending a political crisis that has paralyzed Egypt, a long-time U.S. ally.

Still, the distant attitude toward Morsi, who has come under U.S. criticism in recent days, could open up President Barack Obama to complaints he has not supported democracy in the Arab world.

There was no immediate reaction from the White House or the State Department to the military's announcement that it was installing a technocratic government to eventually be followed by new elections.

But the fact that the Egyptian military announced plans for elections and a constitutional review, and that those plans were immediately backed by the country's leading Muslim and Christian clerics, could help the transition roadmap earn Washington's backing.

Earlier, Psaki had made clear that U.S. officials were disappointed in Morsi's speech on Tuesday night. In that speech Morsi said he would defend the legitimacy of his elected office with his life.

Morsi must “do more to be truly responsive” to concerns of Egyptian people” after huge rallies over the weekend, she said. “We are calling on him to take more steps.”

Specifically, Psaki said Morsi should call for an end to violence, including violence against women. He should also take steps to engage with the opposition and the military and work through the crisis in a political fashion, she added.

The military move also presents Obama with a dilemma over continuing U.S. aid to Egypt. Underlying the importance for Washington of keeping ties to Egypt's military, Secretary of State John Kerry in May quietly approved $1.3 billion in military assistance, even though the country did not meet democracy standards set by the U.S. Congress for it to receive the aid.

U.S. law requires most American aid to be cut off “to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d'etat or decree.”

But the law gives the State Department discretion to decide whether a coup has taken place, according to Republican and Democratic congressional aides.

Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis; Writing by Warren Strobel; Editing by Alistair Bell and Vicki Allen

Protests after “Pharaoh” Morsi assumes powers in Egypt


Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's decision to assume sweeping powers caused fury amongst his opponents and prompted violent clashes in central Cairo and other cities on Friday.

Police fired tear gas near Cairo's Tahrir Square, heart of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, where thousands demanded Morsi quit and accused him of launching a “coup”. There were violent protests in Alexandria, Port Said and Suez.

Opponents accused Morsi, who has issued a decree that puts his decisions above legal challenge until a new parliament is elected, of being the new Mubarak and hijacking the revolution.

“The people want to bring down the regime,” shouted protesters in Tahrir, echoing a chant used in the uprising that forced Mubarak to step down. “Get out, Morsi,” they chanted, along with “Mubarak tell Morsi, jail comes after the throne.”

Morsi's aides said the presidential decree was intended to speed up a protracted transition that has been hindered by legal obstacles but Morsi's rivals condemned him as an autocratic pharaoh who wanted to impose his Islamist vision on Egypt.

“I am for all Egyptians. I will not be biased against any son of Egypt,” Morsi said on a stage outside the presidential palace, adding that he was working for social and economic stability and the rotation of power.

“Opposition in Egypt does not worry me, but it has to be real and strong,” he said, seeking to placate his critics and telling Egyptians that he was committed to the revolution. “Go forward, always forward … to a new Egypt.”

Buoyed by accolades from around the world for mediating a truce between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, Morsi on Thursday ordered that an Islamist-dominated assembly writing the new constitution could not be dissolved by legal challenges.

“Morsi a 'temporary' dictator,” was the headline in the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Morsi, an Islamist whose roots are in the Muslim Brotherhood, also gave himself wide powers that allowed him to sack the unpopular general prosecutor and opened the door for a retrial for Mubarak and his aides.

The president's decree aimed to end the logjam and push Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, more quickly along its democratic path, the presidential spokesman said.

“President Morsi said we must go out of the bottleneck without breaking the bottle,” Yasser Ali told Reuters.

TURBULENCE AND TURMOIL

The president's decree said any decrees he issued while no parliament sat could not be challenged, moves that consolidated his power but look set to polarize Egypt further, threatening more turbulence in a nation at the heart of the Arab Spring.

The turmoil has weighed heavily on Egypt's faltering economy that was thrown a lifeline this week when a preliminary deal was reached with the International Monetary Fund for a $4.8 billion loan. But it also means unpopular economic measures.

In Alexandria, north of Cairo, protesters ransacked an office of the Brotherhood's political party, burning books and chairs in the street. Supporters of Morsi and opponents clashed elsewhere in the city, leaving 12 injured.

A party building was also attacked by stone-throwing protesters in Port Said, and demonstrators in Suez threw petrol bombs that burned banners outside the party building.

Morsi's decree is bound to worry Western allies, particularly the United States, a generous benefactor to Egypt's army, which praised Egypt for its part in bringing Israelis and Palestinians to a ceasefire on Wednesday.

The West may become concerned about measures that, for example, undermine judicial independence. The European Union urged Morsi to respect the democratic process.

“We are very concerned about the possible huge ramifications of this declaration on human rights and the rule of law in Egypt,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, said at the United Nations in Geneva.

The United States has been concerned about the fate of what was once a close ally under Mubarak, who preserved Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel. The Gaza deal has reassured Washington but the deepening polarization of the nation will be a worry.

“ANOTHER DICTATOR”

“The decree is basically a coup on state institutions and the rule of law that is likely to undermine the revolution and the transition to democracy,” said Mervat Ahmed, an independent activist in Tahrir protesting against the decree. “I worry Morsi will be another dictator like the one before him.”

Leading liberal Mohamed ElBaradei, who joined other politicians on Thursday night to demand the decree was withdrawn, wrote on his Twitter account that Morsi had “usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt's new pharaoh”.

Almost two years after Mubarak was toppled and about five months since Morsi took office, propelled to the post by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt has no permanent constitution, which must be in place before new parliamentary elections are held.

The last parliament, which sat for the first time earlier this year, was dissolved after a court declared it void. It was dominated by the Brotherhood's political party.

An assembly drawing up the constitution has yet to complete its work. Many liberals, Christians and others have walked out accusing the Islamists who dominate it of ignoring their voices over the extent that Islam should be enshrined in the new state.

Opponents call for the assembly to be scrapped and remade. Morsi's decree protects the existing one and extends the deadline for drafting a document by two months, pushing it back to February, further delaying a new parliamentary election.

Explaining the rationale behind the moves, the presidential spokesman said: “This means ending the period of constitutional instability to arrive at a state with a written constitution, an elected president and parliament.”

“THIS IS NOT THE REMEDY”

Analyst Seif El Din Abdel Fatah said the decree targeted the judiciary which had reversed, for example, an earlier Morsi decision to remove the prosecutor.

Morsi, who is now protected by his new decree from judicial reversals, said the judiciary contained honorable men but said he would uncover corrupt elements. He also said he would ensure independence for the judicial, executive and legislative powers.

Although many of Morsi's opponents also opposed the sacked prosecutor, whom they blamed for shortcomings in prosecuting Mubarak and his aides, and also want judicial reform, they say a draconian presidential decree was not the way to do it.

“There was a disease but this is not the remedy,” said Hassan Nafaa, a liberal-minded political science professor and activist at Cairo University.

Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Sebastian Moffett in Brussels; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Peter Millership and Giles Elgood