The chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court was sworn in yesterday as the nation’s interim president, taking over hours after the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, while the army launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails.
Egyptian prosecutors ordered the arrest of the Brotherhood’s leader, Mohammed Badie, and his powerful deputy, Khairat el-Shater, for the killing of eight protesters in clashes outside the group’s Cairo headquarters this week, the official news agency reported.
Morsi, who a year ago became Egypt’s first freely elected president, has been under house arrest at an undisclosed location since the generals pushed him out on Wednesday in what his supporters have decried as a military coup. At least a dozen of his advisers and aides are also under house arrest.
Badie and el-Shater were widely believed by the oppositions to be the real power in Egypt during Morsi’s tenure. Egyptian security officials, speaking on condition of anonumity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, yesterday said Badie had been arrested in a coastal city and flown to Cairo on a military helicopter.
Authorities have also issued a wanted list for more than 200 Brotherhood members and leaders of other Islamist groups. The leader of the Brotherhood’s political arm — Freedom and Justice Party — and another of Badie’s deputies have been detained.
The arrests and warrants against Brotherhood leaders signal a crackdown by the military against Islamists who have dominated the political scene in Egypt since the ouster in 2011 of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
The Brotherhood’s TV station, Misr 25, has been taken off the air along with several TV networks run by Islamists. Morsi’s critics have long accused the stations of sowing division among Egyptians and inciting against secularists, liberals, Christians and Shiite Muslims with their hard-line rhetoric.
Morsi’s successor, Judge Adly Mansour, took the oath of office at the Nile-side Constitutional Court in a ceremony broadcast live on state television.
According to military decree, Mansour will serve as Egypt’s interim leader until a new president is elected. A date for that vote has yet to be set.
Mansour used his first remarks as interim leader to praise the massive street demonstrations that led to Morsi’s ouster. He hailed the youth behind the protests that began on June 30 and brought out millions around the country.
Perhaps aware of the risk of a polarized society, Mansour also used his inauguration to extend an olive branch to the Brotherhood.
“The Muslim Brotherhood are part of this people and are invited to participate in building the nation as nobody will be excluded, and if they respond to the invitation, they will be welcomed,” he said.
The UN, the US and several other world powers did not condemn Morsi’s removal as a military coup. To do so might trigger sanctions.
US President Barack Obama, whose administration provides US$1.3 billion a year to the Egyptian military, expressed concern about Morsi’s removal and called for a swift return to a democratically elected civilian government.
However, he stopped short of condemning a military move that could block US aid.
Israel avoided any show of satisfaction over the fall of an Islamist president who alarmed many in the Jewish state, but who quickly made clear he would not renege on a peace treaty.