Prosecutor’s resignation angers Brotherhood Egypt opposition in fresh protests

CAIRO, Dec 18, (RTRS): Egypt’s public prosecutor resigned under pressure from his opponents in the judiciary, dealing a blow to President Mohamed Morsi and drawing an angry response on Tuesday from the Islamist leader’s supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood.
Seeking to keep pressure on Morsi, the main opposition coalition staged protests against an Islamist-backed draft constitution that has divided Egypt but which looks set to be approved in the second round of a referendum on Saturday.

A few hundred protesters made their way through the streets of Cairo chanting “Revolution, revolution, for the sake of the constitution” and calling on Morsi to “Leave, leave, you coward”.
But as the protest got under way, the numbers were well down on previous demonstrations.
Morsi obtained a 57 percent “yes” vote for the constitution in a first round of the referendum last weekend, state media said, less than he had hoped for.
The opposition, which says the law is too Islamist, will be emboldened by the result but is unlikely to win the second round, to be held in districts seen as even more sympathetic towards Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Protesters broke into cheers when the public prosecutor appointed by Morsi last month announced his resignation late on Monday.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled Morsi to power in elections in June, said the enforced resignation of public prosecutor Talaat Ibrahim was a “crime”.
The Supreme Judiciary Council, which governs the country’s judicial system, should refuse to accept the prosecutor’s resignation, the Brotherhood said.
Further signs of opposition to Morsi emerged when a judges’ club urged its members not to supervise Saturday’s vote. But the call is not binding and balloting is expected to go ahead.
If the constitution passes next weekend, national elections can take place early next year, something many hope will help end the turmoil that has gripped Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.

The National Salvation Front opposition coalition said there were widespread voting violations in the first round and called for protests to “bring down the invalid draft constitution”.
The Ministry of Justice said it was appointing a group of judges to investigate complaints of voting irregularities around the country.
Opposition marchers headed for Tahrir Square, cradle of the revolution that toppled Mubarak, and Morsi’s presidential palace, still ringed with tanks after earlier protests.
A protester at the presidential palace, Mohamed Adel, 30, said: “I have been camping here for weeks and will continue to do so until the constitution that divided the nation, and for which people died, gets scrapped.”

The build-up to the first round of voting saw clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi in which eight people died. Recent demonstrations in Cairo have been more peaceful, although rival factions clashed on Friday in Alexandria, Egypt’s second biggest city.
On Monday evening, more than 1,300 members of the General Prosecution staff gathered outside the public prosecutor’s office, demanding Ibrahim leave his post.
Hours later, Ibrahim announced he had resigned. The crowd cheered “God is Great! Long live justice!” and “Long live the independence of the judiciary!” witnesses said.
The closeness of the first-round referendum vote and low turnout give Morsi scant comfort as he seeks to assemble support for difficult economic reforms.
“This percentage ... will strengthen the hand of the National Salvation Front and the leaders of this Front have declared they are going to continue this fight to discredit the constitution,” said Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University.
Morsi is likely to become more unpopular with the introduction of planned austerity measures, polarising society further, Sayyid told Reuters.
To tackle the budget deficit, the government needs to impose tax rises and cut back fuel subsidies. Uncertainty surrounding economic reform plans has already forced the postponement of a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The Egyptian pound has fallen to eight-year lows against the dollar.

Morsi and his backers say the constitution is needed to move Egypt’s democratic transition forward. Opponents say the document is too Islamist and ignores the rights of women and of minorities, including Christians who make up 10 percent of the population.
Demonstrations erupted when Morsi awarded himself extra powers on Nov 22 and then fast-tracked the constitution through an assembly dominated by his Islamist allies and boycotted by many liberals.
The referendum has had to be held over two days because many of the judges needed to oversee polling staged a boycott in protest. In order to pass, the constitution must be approved by more than 50 percent of those voting.
Russia may ease restrictions on the Muslim Brotherhood soon to improve relations with Egypt and rebuild influence lost during the Arab Spring revolutions, diplomatic sources say.
The election of Morsi, propelled to power by the Islamist group, offers President Vladimir Putin a chance to improve relations with Cairo that were strained during the long rule of Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in 2011.
Russia’s Supreme Court banned the Muslim Brotherhood from operating in Russia in 2003, describing it as a terrorist organisation.
But Moscow is now trying to beef up ties with Egypt, partly to offset some of the influence it has lost in the Arab world in the past two years, particularly in countries such as Libya and Syria that have been recipients of Russian arms.
Easing restrictions on the Muslim Brotherhood would follow
a similar move by the United States, which tweaked its ban on formal contacts with the Islamist group, banned under Mubarak, early in 2012. Morsi is expected to visit Washington in 2013 for the first time since his election in June.
Western diplomatic sources say Morsi also accepted an invitation to visit Russia when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Egypt during a Middle East tour last month.
“The visit is expected close to the end of the first quarter in 2013. The Brotherhood being on the list remains the problem and Lavrov is said to have given assurances that they will deal with that,” one of the sources said.
Russia has in the past accused the Muslim Brotherhood of supporting rebels who want to create an Islamist state in Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus.
The Kremlin is still struggling to contain the Islamist insurgency, which Putin has warned could fuel violence in other regions closer to the capital.
But during his trip to Cairo, Lavrov endorsed an initiative by Morsi to resolve the conflict in Syria and political analysts say Moscow appears to be looking for ways to engage more with Egypt, a popular holiday destination for Russians as well as being a regional power.
“As far as I know, Minister Lavrov wants to ‘delist’ it (the Muslim Brotherhood),” said Alexei Grishin, head of the Religion & Society think tank who used to be a presidential adviser on Islam.
“Any fresh decision by the Supreme Court would be a very lengthy procedure, so maybe what can be done is to restrict the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood only to the faction that fought in Russia, in the Caucasus, for example,” he told Reuters.
Russia’s Supreme Court and anti-terrorist committee were not available for comment. The Foreign Ministry declined immediate comment.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has rebuffed claims carried by Egyptian media that it was behind a plot against the Egypt’s leadership, saying they were “fabricated”, state news agency WAM reported.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan has summoned Egypt’s ambassador to discuss the claims aimed “to damage the interests of the two countries and their historic and special relationship”, WAM said late on Monday.
Sheikh Abdullah called on the Egyptian government “to follow up on these unfounded and slanderous fabrications”, WAM said.
It did not directly quote the comments which gave offence.
Egyptian official sources, who declined to be named because of the political sensitivity of the matter, said the UAE was responding to accusations by Mohammed Yaqout that the Gulf state was involved in a plot to kidnap Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Yaqout is a former member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, according to independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm.
The UAE has arrested about 60 local Islamists this year, accusing them of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood — which is banned in the country — and conspiring to overthrow the government.
Thanks to cradle-to-grave welfare systems, the UAE and other Gulf Arab monarchies have largely avoided the Arab Spring unrest which unseated rulers elsewhere.
But they fear that the rise of the Brotherhood in Egypt, and of other Islamist groups elsewhere, could increase dissent on their own turf.
A Muslim Brotherhood official in Cairo, contacted by Reuters, said the Brotherhood had not accused the UAE of a plot and that he did not know Yagout.
The organisation, which rose to power in Egypt after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak last year, has consistently sought to reassure Gulf Arab states it has no plan to push for political change beyond Egypt’s borders.

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