Africa
3:59 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Morsi Supporters Fear Nearing Crackdown On Islamist Groups

Originally published on Mon July 29, 2013 11:01 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

In Egypt, the ousted president, Mohammed Morsi, has been formally detained, pending an investigation into a string of charges. They include murder, arson and conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Also today, rival groups of protesters filled Egypt's streets.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Foreign language spoken)

SIEGEL: Some came out in support of Morsi. Others responded to appeals from the country's military chief for a popular mandate to confront what he called terrorism and violence. Morsi supporters fear an imminent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.

NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Cairo. And, Leila, Mohammed Morsi has been in military custody since he was ousted on July 3rd. What does formal detention mean?

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: So basically, after he was ousted, he went into military custody on no legal track. There was no legal reason to hold him. He was just incommunicado. Everybody was condemning this internationally. And now, for the first time, they have started a legal proceeding against the ousted president that could lead to formal charges.

SIEGEL: These charges seem to date back to 2011, that is to say the Egyptian Revolution, and it's a wide range: arson, murder, colluding with Hamas. It all involves a prison break, I gather. What is all this about?

FADEL: Yeah. I mean, it's like a great novel, right? He broke out of prison during the 2011 uprising, he and along with dozens of other Muslim Brotherhood leaders who are political prisoners, and thousands of other Egyptians that were in prison. And during that time, Egyptians were breaking into police stations. They were attacking state security buildings, party buildings.

And so a lot of his supporters, a lot of critics of the military are saying these seem politicized, that these are trumped-up charges, that they are going into sort of xenophobic feelings towards the Palestinians because he's accused of colluding with Hamas, killing other prisoners, killing police, killing soldiers, setting fire to the prison, and the list goes on.

And among his supporters today in these marches that were out there in support of him, people are saying this is just a way to get rid of the president, to get rid of the democratic system and put the military back in power. I just want you to listen for a moment to Rania Farouk(ph), who I met today in Cairo.

RANIA FAROUK: We don't know where is our president. We don't know anything. Sisi, he is lying. He's lying on us.

SIEGEL: Now, she's a supporter of the ousted president, but there were lots of Egyptians out there today who heeded the call from the military chief, General Sisi, to march.

FADEL: That's right. This is a hugely popular institution in Egypt, even with all of its missteps following the ouster of Mubarak when it ruled in the transition, human rights abuses. It remained extremely popular among Egyptians. They trust it.

And so when Sisi made this call, a lot of people responded even though, as you said, it was kind of vague. They didn't necessarily understand who the terrorists were. Others saying this is a way to show the world this is what we want. We don't want Morsi as president. We will consider his supporters terrorists, especially if they use violence or these marches lead to violence. This is what one of those protesters, Hisham Kamal(ph), had to say.

HISHAM KAMAL: They have to learn that, I mean, to be different is not to be aggressive and be violent. So, I mean, this is our idea.

FADEL: You know, what's been most alarming in reporting in both - on both sides of this is to hear the way that Egyptians speak about each other. Among a lot of the supporters of the president, especially among the hard-liners, they'll talk about the opposition to them as people who aren't true Egyptians. They don't believe in democracy, some saying, oh, they're all Christians who hate Muslims, which has prompted some sectarian violence.

And then on the other side, people demonizing all supporters of Morsi as terrorists, as people who are trying to destroy Egypt, as foreigners who are just coming to create unrest.

SIEGEL: There has been some violence today. Is it getting out of control?

FADEL: Well, that's the major fear is that it might. What we've seen is a pattern of protest, rival protest going to the streets, and when they come in contact, people die. We've seen that on both sides. We've seen people with guns shooting at each other. We've seen some excessive force used by the security forces against Morsi supporters, and that's a real concern here. Another big concern is that following mass rallies, the military and police do a major crackdown on supporters of Morsi.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo. Thank you, Leila.

FADEL: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And today's violence has claimed lives. The Egyptian health ministry says at least five people have been killed in Alexandria. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.