Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Updates: Morsi Ousted; Head of Constitutional Court to Take over Egypt Presidency

by al-Ahram

Military statement suspends constitution, puts in place new caretaker government; Egyptian army deploy around Cairo

Tahrir Square
Laser lights are seen as protesters, who are against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, 
gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo July 3, 2013 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

21:12 It looks like Misr 25, the Egyptian Brotherhood-run television channel, is off air.

21:10 The speech is over. There are massive celebrations going on at anti-Morsi rallies in Tahrir Square and Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo.

21:06 El-Sisi continues:
We have made many proposals to get out of the current crisis.
We met with the Egyptian president on 30 June, 2013, during which we rejected any threat to the Egyptian people.
We were hoping for reconciliation that would fulfill the aspirations of the people.
However, the president's address did not live up to the expectations of the Egyptian people.
So we called for a meeting involving different parties, without excluding anyone.
Our roadmap consists of: 1- Suspending the constitution.
2-Holding early presidential elections. The High Constitutional Court head will be in charge of the country until then.
3-Forming a national coalition government.
4-Forming a committee to look into amendments of the constitution.
Taking measures to include the Egyptian youth in the decision-making process.
The armed forces call on the great Egyptian people to abstain from violence and resort to peaceful protest.
We salute the armed forces for their repeated sacrifices for the sake of the county.
21:04 Some initial quotes from the speech by the head of Egypt's military
 The armed forces would never turn a blind eye towards the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
The armed forces will always be out of politics. The Egyptian people called on the armed forces to fulfill the goals of the revolution.
The armed forces understood the demands of the Egyptian people. We are committed to fulfilling our responsibility.
 Since November 2012, we have called for a national dialogue, which was accepted by all parties except the presidency.
21:02 Here we go. Chief of Egyptian armed forces, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, is speaking live on Egyptian television. 

20:55 Another statement by an opposition group, clearly anticipating an announcement that meets their demands.

The 30 June Coordinating Committee, a coalition of anti-Morsi groups, releases a statement refusing any foreign pressures exerted on the armed forces to pull it away from the popular movement and portray its stance as a coup. It also rejects attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies to abort the “popular revolution” which went to the streets in the millions.
The statement declared its rejection of what it describes as the US "standing by the Muslim Brotherhood for its own interests."

The current unprecedented popular movement is a continuation of the January 25 revolution, the statement asserted, and “will achieve its goals of justice and dignity by the struggle of its people”.
“We call on national forces to remain united in its path in the face of any attempt to divide” the statement read.  

20:50 A presidential source tells Ahram Arabic that President Mohamed Morsi was informed by the army at 7pm that he is no longer president.

20:45 The Watan Party, a Salafist grouping which is part of the pro-Morsi National Alliance for Supporting Legitimacy, seem to be sticking with the president. The Brotherhood’s news site, Ikhwan Online, reports that head of the Watan Party and Morsi aide Emad Abdel-Ghafour has said that the people “will not allow any coup against the legitimacy of the president.”

20:40 The moderate Islamist grouping the Strong Egypt Party, led by former Muslim Brotherhood figure Abdel-Moneim Abu-Fotouh, said on its official Twitter page that it rejects any attempts by the army to interfere in managing the political process and that it also rejects the exclusion of any political faction from public life.

20:35 Several rights organisations in Egypt have released a statement on Wednesday declaring their respect for the 30 June uprising and urging that the law must be the basis for resolving the current political situation.
The organisations hailed the “overwhelming uprising of the Egyptian people who on 30 June set out to boldly challenge the political despotism which had taken on a religious guise, in the same way they challenged Mubarak’s regime and his police state.”
The statement criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for undermining rights and liberties, and said that the organisation’s speech had “inflamed political and ideological polarisation, stigmatised opponents of their political project as 'infidels' and made them the targets for violence.”

The statement also criticised the violence used against the Brotherhood over recent days, including the attacks on their supporters and offices, but said that these violent acts would not have been committed if the Brotherhood and their allies had not attempted to “suppress their political opponents” and maintained “an utter lack of accountability for acts of violence, torture, and murder committed by Muslim Brotherhood supporters.”

The statement also called on security forces, including the military, to protect demonstrators and “act decisively” with any person attacking demonstrations regardless of political affiliation.

Finally, the groups demanded that any new political roadmap should guarantee civil liberties, and should lead to constitutional amendments.

The statement’s signatories include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, and a number of others.

20:30 Maha Abou Bakr, a senior member of the anti-Morsi ‘Rebel’ campaign, tells Ahram Arabic that the group has suggested Mohamed Ghoneim, a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, to head the national coalition government that they expect to be formed following Morsi’s ouster.

Bakr further added that the movement has nominated leftist politician Hossam Eissa to be one of two deputy prime ministers, suggesting that the second deputy be a member of the Islamist current.

20:20 Egypt’s military spokesman Ahmed Ali has said on his official Facebook page that the meeting between the army’s commander-in-chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and the religious and national groups has ended. A statement revealing meeting’s outcome will be coming within the hour.

20:15 Fireworks are lighting up the sky in the streets near to Ittihadiya presidential palace, reports Ahram Online’s Bel Trew.

“People are singing and dancing, and some are holding posters of military figures chanting ‘the heroes are here,’ ” adds Trew.

20:10 Mohamed El-Beltagy, deputy head of the Freedom and Justice Party, gave an angry statement to Al Jazeera English from the pro-Morsi rally Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square.
 “This is nothing short of a coup. A coup against legitimacy, against the will of the people, against the ballot box, and the democratically approved constitution. Everyone knows that we have never initiated violence. Our offices and our leaders were attacked; many of our supporters were killed amid silence from army and police.”
El-Beltagy condemned the military’s statement and rejected the army’s interference in the political crisis.
“These masses [in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square] are not seeking a confrontation with the army, but they refuse to see the army siding with one faction of the people against another, re-entering the political arena and being part of this division. We will not seek violence but we will not surrender our right to fight attempts of subverting people's will.”
19:50 More on the US: AFP reports that US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to Egyptian defence minister and head of the armed forces, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, yesterday. AFP says that: 
"Pentagon press secretary George Little is refusing to release any details about the content of the calls. He says U.S. officials at various levels of government have been very clear that America remains committed to the democratic process in Egypt and hopes the tensions there can be resolved peacefully."
The US State Department press conference is still ongoing. Spokesperson Jen Psaki says that the US is "on the side of the Egyptian people" and that Morsi should call for an end to violence. 

19:40 At a press conference, a US State Department spokesperson says that the United States is "very concerned" about the situation in Egypt.

The situation in Egypt remains fluid, and the United States cannot confirm whether a military coup is underway, department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.

"We do ... remain very concerned about what we're seeing on the ground," Psaki said.
19:30 The military are not just deploying in Cairo; Ahram Arabic reports 20 armoured vehicles and solider carriers have been deployed in the vicinity of a local mosque in Suez where Morsi's supporters are rallying. A number of military helicopters are hovering over the city and the Suez Canal

In Sinai, Egyptian security forces have been on high alert along the borders since the morning, according to Ahram Arabic.

Security measures have also been tightened up near the tunnels into Gaza and around security installations in the deserted peninsula.

19:24 Ninety-three Egyptian diplomats, some based in the ministry of foreign affairs headquarters in Cairo and some based abroad, have declared a strike, reports state agency MENA. The diplomats object to the “failure of the president to meet the people’s demands.”

The minister of foreign affairs resigned yesterday. 

19:20 The pro-Morsi coalition, the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, will hold a press conference on the latest developments tonight at 10pm in Al-Rabaa Al-Adawiya, according to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Twitter account @Ikhwanweb.

19:10 The official spokesman of the armed forces, Colonel Ahmed Ali, vehemently denies that the troops currently deployed in Cairo have attacked pro-Morsi protesters, who are camping out at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo's Nasr City district. He said that some people had claimed that the army had attacked the rally in phonecalls to CNN.
"Our army is seeking to secure all Egyptians, regardless of their affiliations. We call on local and international media not to spread any inaccurate information that may drive a wedge between the army and the people," he said on his Facebook page.
19:00 At least ten people have been injured in clashes between supporters and opponents to President Morsi in Al-Shohada Square in the Nile delta governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh, reports Ahram Arabic.
The injuries were reportedly caused by bird shot and bladed weapons. The injured have been transferred to local hospitals.

18:55 Military sources have told Ahram Arabic that a large number of military armoured vehicles are now deployed in the vicinity of the Ittihadiya presidential palace, the nearby Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque, and the iconic Tahrir Square, where rallies are being staged.

The interior ministry’s Central Security Forces are also stepping up their presence around Tahrir Square and at key state institutions. 

18:50 Lots of reports of army deployments around Cairo now. Alastair Beach of UK daily the Independent is tweeting pictures of troops being deployed close to Cairo University in Giza, the site of yesterday's clashes, including along the Nile Bridge connecting Giza and Cairo. There are also now reportedly troops deployed in Tahrir Square and at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya pro-Morsi rally. 

18:45 Military sources have told Ahram Online that the meeting being held between the leaders of the armed forces and political, religious and national groups is over and a statement will be released shortly.

18:40 Around a hundred Turkish protesters have gathered in Istanbul to voice their support for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, reported state-owned news agency MENA.

The protest was reportedly led by the Özgür-Der, a Turkish rights group.

18:35 Protests in the Nile Delta are still going strong, with hundreds of thousands rallying in iconic Thawra Square in the city of Mansoura in Daqahliya, Ahram Arabic reports.

"The people already brought down the regime," protesters chanted. "Mansoura will turn you back into a banned group," went another in reference to the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood was forced to operate underground under former president Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters across the town continue to blockade a number of state institutions, in the fourth consecutive day of their civil disobedience campaign.

18:30 An article on Ahram Arabic website quotes an anonymous source saying that the armed forces have extended their deadline in an effort to reach consensus and prevent further violence. The source explained that military leaders offered to postpone their statement for a few hours in order to cooperate on containing bloodshed and to guarantee the president's safety.

The source denied that Morsi had been arrested or placed on house arrest, contrary to circulating rumours, stating that the Republican Guard is still protecting the president at the Republican Guard headquarters. According to the source, head of the military Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told President Morsi: "treachery is not part of the doctrine of the armed forces.”

18:20 The military are being deployed to separate the pro-Morsi protesters at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque and the anti-Morsi demonstrators in front of the headquarters of the Ittihadiya presidential guard, reports Ahram Arabic.

Army forces
Army forces near Rabba Al-Adawiya Mosque, 
site of pro-Morsi protests (Photo: Al-Ahram)
18:15 Egyptian security forces have imposed a travel ban on President Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Badie and his deputy Khairat Al-Shater over their involvement in prison escapes in 2011, security officials have told AFP news agency.

18:10 In anticipation of the military's statement, anti-Morsi protesters are crowding Tahrir Square and Ittihadiya presidential palace. Both spaces look full. 

There are also hundreds of thousands of Morsi's supporters at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City. Everyone is waiting for the statement. 

Raba El-Adwyia
Supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi shout slogans during a 
demonstration at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square in Cairo July 3, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)
18:00 There is a report on Ahram Arabic website that the army is beginning to deploy in Giza from the Dahshour barracks. There are lots of rumours circulating and it's hard to verify sources, although it's true that Giza was the site of deadly clashes yesterday.

17:50 The anti-Morsi Rebel petition campaign has called on people to take the streets before the army announces its statement, expected soon.

Ahram Arabic reports that the campaign called on people to have faith in God, the people and the army, stressing that the military does not seek to get involved in politics. The campaign expressed its faith in the expected military statement saying it believed it will reflect the demands of the people. 
‘Rebel’ reiterated the army warning against any possible killing of civilians saying that anyone caught involved would stand trial and would be held accountable by the people.

The campaign also added that it would stand against any foreign pressure, especially from the US, to leave Morsi in power.

The campaign organisers call on people to "go to the streets now and save your revolution.”

17:38 A key Morsi aide has released a statement in English calling recent events "a military coup." Essam El-Haddad, presidential assistant on Foreign Relations & International Cooperation, writes on his official Facebook page:
"Hundreds of thousands of them have gathered in support of democracy and the Presidency. And they will not leave in the face of this attack. To move them, there will have to be violence. It will either come from the army, the police, or the hired mercenaries. Either way there will be considerable bloodshed."
"Yesterday, the President received an initiative from an alliance of parties supporting constitutional legitimacy. He discussed it with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense and all three of them agreed that it presented an excellent path for Egypt out of its current impasse. The initiative called for a full change of cabinet, a prime minister acceptable to all, changing the public prosecutor, agreement on constitutional amendments, and a reconciliation commission."
"And let us also be clear. The President did not have to offer all these concessions. In a democracy, there are simple consequences for the situation we see in Egypt: the President loses the next election or his party gets penalized in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Anything else is mob rule."
17:36 More anti-Morsi protests in the Nile Delta. In Sharqiya, President Morsi’s hometown, crowds of protesters are congregating outside the president’s residence there, chanting anti-regime slogans. Protesters say they will begin an open-ended sit-in until their demands are met, threatening to bring the whole city to a halt.

Other demonstrators continue to shut down entrances to the municipal governor's office, banning employees from entering. 

17:35 Twenty people were injured after clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters in the northern Delta governorate of Damietta near Souq Al-Hassaba Square, reports Ahram Arabic.

17:30 Opposition leader Hamdeen Sabbahi has called on all Egyptians to rally in the streets as an expression of the “success of the revolution,” via his official Twitter account, in anticipation of the military’s statement.

17:25 State news agency MENA reports that the police are handing out juice and water to anti-Morsi protesters in Tahrir Square.

Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi shout slogans 
during a protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 3, 2013 (Photo: AP)
17:20 Still no army statement, although some local television channels are broadcasting rumours that President Morsi has been put under house arrest, causing crowds in Tahrir to celebrate. 

17:00 In Alexandria, the site of major clashes over the last week between pro- and anti-Morsi groups, thousands are now flocking to Al-Qaed Ibrahim Square in the city centre and to Sidi Gaber district to hold anti-Morsi rallies. There are also big crowds marching along the seafront. Police forces are hovering across several streets and squares to ensure security.

16:50 The president’s office issued a statement reaffirming Morsi’s commitment to the roadmap announced in his speech yesterday, which includes the forming of a coalition government and a committee to amend the constitution.

16:45 Tahrir Square is starting to fill up with anti-Morsi demonstrators, with the central square partially full while surrounding streets are still relatively empty. Thousands are also starting to flock to Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber train station to demonstrate.

There are also reports of anti-Morsi demonstrators gathering in Sharqiya, Menoufiya, Port Said and Mansoura. 

16:40 The rhetoric of the Islamist supporters at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya press conference was largely defiant, like President Morsi's speech last night. 
"We call upon all Egyptians to take to the streets and stand against the attempt to overthrow legitimacy," Islamist politician Magdy Hussein stated.
He further asked protesters to raise their national identity cards as proof of them being Egyptian, claiming police chose not to protect them during the clashes on Tuesday night because they were told "you were not Egyptians".

16:30 The military's 48 hour deadline has now expired. The armed forces have said that they are meeting with religious, national, political and youth leaders now, and we're expecting a statement soon. 

16:25 The National Association for Change (NAC), a pro-democracy umbrella group of liberal, leftists and Brotherhood activists formed in 2010 to coordinate opposition against Hosni Mubarak’s rule, has issued a statement warning all “foreign states, entities and institutes” against interfering in Egypt’s internal matters asserting that any attempts of intervention would be a de facto declaration of war on Egypt.

In their statement, the NAC addressed the US in particular, criticising its ongoing interference “obviously reflected in their recent actions and statements.”

The NAC also called on Hamas and other Arab groups to understand “the danger of interfering in internal matters, or the involvement in the complicated struggle between the people and the groups of local and global terrorism."

Anti-Americanism has been a feature of some of the anti-Morsi protests recently, with some protesters arguing that the US is too close to the Muslim Brotherhood. A statement released this evening by Coptic rights group the Maspero Youth Union also warned the American people that their president and US ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson support "a fascist group [the Brotherhood] that oppresses minorities."

16:25 Several miles away from the Ittihadiya presidential palace, a focal point of mass opposition rallies since Sunday, anti-regime protesters have started to congregate outside Egypt's defence ministry as the deadline of the military ultimatum draws nearer. The group of pro-army protesters have been holding a sit-in at the location for 12 days.

16:20 A press conference is underway by the Islamist supporters of President Morsi, the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, at Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque.

"The president spoke to the people last night and explained the situation and outlined his road map for resolving the current crisis in Egypt,” a statement read by Magdy Hussein of the Islamic Labour Party said.

"We are the constitution, we are legitimacy, we are freedom, we are revolution...Thirty years and the army didn't challenge Mubarak, it didn't go to war with Israel; but it challenges the legitimacy of the democratic president.... If the army enters politics it's the end of the constitution" said Hussein.
16:10 Ahram Arabic website reports that in a number of governorates, protesters are blocking roads and besieging governorate buildings in the run up to the military’s anticipated statement.

In the city of Kafr El-Sheikh, protesters who have besieged the governorate headquarters announced they will keep doing so until Morsi resigns, announcing their rejection of recently-appointed Muslim Brotherhood governor Saad El-Husseini.

In the Gharbiya city of Tanta in the Delta, members of youth protest groups shut the gate to the Gharbiya governorate headquarters with metal chains and prevented employees from entering the building in response to the call for civil disobedience by ‘Rebel’ campaign.

In Menoufiya, hometown of former president Mubarak, a group of protesters blocked one of the city’s main roads.

16:00 Welcome to Ahram Online’s live updates. On Monday, the Egyptian supreme council of the armed forces responded to mass protests by issuing an ultimatum to political forces, saying that unless "the people's demands are met" within 48 hours, the army would impose its own roadmap. The 48-hour deadline will be up today at 4:30pm Cairo time.

Today's key developments so far:
  • The army has said that there is no time set for its statement.
  • President Mohamed Morsi and the group which he hails from, the Muslim Brotherhood seem entrenched in their position and reluctant to make any concessions.
  • The opposition, including the anti-Morsi 'Rebel' campaign that spearheaded the 30 June protests, and the coalition group the National Salvation Front also show no sign of backing down. Rebel has nominated three of its organisers to negotiate on its behalf, while the rest of the opposition have put forward liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei. Negotiations are currently going on between ElBaradei and different political factions. Head of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party Saad El-Katatni refused an invitation by the military to meet with ElBaradei.
  • The Islamist supporters of the president are expected to hold a press conference soon. There were initial reports that key Morsi allies Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya were calling on President Morsi to hold a referendum on early presidential elections, but the group has denied this.
  • The interior ministry released a statement saying that it will stand "side by side" with the army, and will address any violence.
  • There are still tens of thousands of Morsi supporters camped out at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo's Nasr City, and a similar number of anti-Morsi protesters in Tahrir Square. There is also an anti-Morsi gathering at Ittihadiya presidential palace in Heliopolis.



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