Morsi accused of murder, kidnapping
26 July 2013, 15:39
Cairo - The Egyptian army is detaining ousted President
Mohammed Morsi over accusations of kidnapping, killing soldiers and other
charges, the state news agency said on Friday.
The army had previously said it was holding Morsi for his
own safety and the report was likely to stoke tension before mass rallies on
Friday billed as shows of strength between supporters and opponents of the
Islamist Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader.
Both sides warned of the potential for bloodshed in Egypt,
which has been convulsed by political and economic turmoil since the 2011
uprising that ended 30 years of autocratic rule by the US-backed Hosni Mubarak.
State news agency Mena said the mooted charges against Morsi
included conspiring with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, killing
prisoners and officers "deliberately with prior intent", kidnapping
officers and soldiers, and setting fire to the prison of Wadi el-Natroun.
They relate to his escape from the prison in 2011, when he
was arrested during the uprising against Mubarak, and provide legal grounds for
his continued detention.
Morsi has been held by the military since the army ousted
him from office on July 3 following huge street protests against his troubled,
one-year rule. Washington has previously called for him to be freed.
His Muslim Brotherhood denounced news of the accusations.
"At the end of the day we know all of these charges are
nothing more than the fantasy of a few army generals and a military
dictatorship," Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said. "We are
continuing our protests on the streets."
Throwing down the gauntlet to the Brotherhood, army chief
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called on Egyptians to rally nationwide on
Friday to give the military a "mandate" to confront weeks of violence
unleashed by Morsi's removal.
A military official said the army had given Morsi’s Muslim
Brotherhood a Saturday deadline to end its resistance and join a military-set
road map to new elections, signalling a turning point in the confrontation.
The Brotherhood fears a crackdown to wipe out an Islamist
movement that emerged from decades in the shadows to win every election since
Mubarak's fall but then struggled to tackle Egypt's growing economic and social
The army has threatened to "turn its guns" on
those who use violence. The Brotherhood warned of civil war.
"We will not initiate any move, but will definitely
react harshly against any calls for violence or black terrorism from
Brotherhood leaders or their supporters," an army official told Reuters.
A few hundred pro-army supporters gathered early Friday
morning in Tahrir Square, centre of two years of turmoil in Egypt, before the
main rally which might not peak until after the evening prayer marking the end
of the day's Ramadan fast.
"The people, the army and the police are one
hand," shouted a policeman, leading a group of chanters.
Armoured personnel carriers guarded every entrance to the
The Brotherhood, which has manned a street vigil for almost
a month with thousands of followers demanding Morsi’s return, has called for its
Confrontation appeared inevitable following a month of
clashes in which close to 200 people, mainly supporters of Morsi, have been
killed. Many people in the Arab world's most populous country feared the worst.
"I'm staying home all day, it's too dangerous to work.
I didn't think things in Egypt could get this bad, but every day you hear about
clashes and deaths," said Shadi Mohamed, a 22-year-old taxi driver.
"Egypt is a disaster."
There is deepening alarm in the West over the course taken
by the country of 84 million people, a pivotal nation between the Middle East
and North Africa and recipient of $1.5bn a year in mainly military aid
from the United States.
Signalling its displeasure at recent events, Washington said
this week it had delayed delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Cairo and called
on the Egyptian army to exercise "maximum restraint and caution"
during Friday's rallies.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, however, said on
Thursday the Obama administration did not intend to rule on whether Morsi’s
overthrow constituted a coup, wording that would have triggered the cut-off of
Morsi and many other Brotherhood leaders were rounded up by
the authorities during the 2011 uprising that eventually swept Mubarak from
Many managed to escape in the ensuing confusion, alongside
militants from Hamas, a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that
governs in the neighbouring Gaza Strip.
Morsi and his fellow Brotherhood members have said they were
freed by local residents from the Wadi el-Natroun prison. State news agency
Mena said investigating judge Hassan Samir had already confronted Morsi with evidence
Brotherhood supporters have been camped out in a Cairo
square since June 28, guarded by men with sticks behind barricades and
sandbags. They fear a repeat of the July 8 killing of more than 50 Morsi
supporters when security forces opened fire outside a Cairo barracks.
Witnesses said army helicopters had dropped flyers at the
vigil calling on people to refrain from violence. The Brotherhood says it is
the authorities themselves who have stirred up violence to justify their crackdown.
Sisi delivered his call for rallies on Wednesday in full
military uniform and dark sunglasses. He was appointed by Morsi in a bid by the
president to rein in Egypt's all-powerful military, but Sisi turned against him
after a year in which the economy floundered and support for the Brotherhood