Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fact-finding committee on post-Morsi violence recommends a ban on Islamist parties

In a press conference to announce the final findings of a mandated committee looking into violence in Egypt post-July 2013, the head of the committee says its report should be the last mention of post-Morsi events


Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed ousted Mohamed Morsi shout slogans outside the at the Rabaa Adawiya square in Cairo July 8, 2013

A ‎fact-finding committee mandated to investigate violent ‎events in Egypt since the 2013 ouster of Islamist president ‎Mohamed Morsi has sharply attacked Islamist parties, ‎labelling them as reactionary, undemocratic and advocating they ‎be dissolved as a condition for healthy political life in ‎the country.‎

The committee's chairman, Fouad Abdel-Moneim Riad, ‎while reviewing a 47-page report issued by the ‎committee on post-Morsi violence, said: "We highly ‎recommend that political Islam parties be dissolved in ‎accordance with Article 74 of Egypt's 2014 Constitution ‎and also in order to safeguard society against the ‎reactionary ideology of these factions which like to mix ‎religion with politics."‎

The report, according to the committee's secretary-‎general and spokesperson, Omar Marawan, included as ‎many as 60 recommendations for the government and ‎other state authorities to adopt in a bid to stem the ‎tide of violence and extremism in Egypt.‎

Riad, in a press conference held in the main chamber of ‎Shura Council, said in collecting data and information ‎about post-Morsi violence in Egypt, the committee ‎exercised extreme neutrality, impartiality and ‎independence. "We are independent of the government ‎and our role was just to collect information and data, ‎document them, and not to direct a list of charges ‎against any party," said Riad.‎

Riad said the committee's report on post-Morsi violence ‎includes 767 pages, in addition to 11,000 pages of ‎corroborating documents and CDs featuring field ‎footage of the violent events.‎

Riad said the six-member committee also sought the help ‎of experts on international law for reasons of accuracy ‎and professionalism.‎

According to Riad, "The report issued by the committee ‎should be the last about post-Morsi events." "We ‎should not speak about the past anymore," said Riad, ‎adding that "as many as 60 recommendations listed at ‎the end of the report should be used by decision-makers ‎and civil society activists to draw up a better future for ‎Egypt."‎

The three-hour conference was attended by Boutros Boutros ‎Ghali, the former UN secretary-general, Amr Moussa, ‎former secretary-general of the Arab League and ‎chairman of the 50-Member Committee that drafted the ‎country's new constitution, and a number of foreign ‎ambassadors in Cairo.‎

The conference included a video film, beginning with a ‎speech in which former president Mohamed Morsi ‎vowed that he would respect the constitution. The film, ‎accompanied by comments from Marawan, reviewed ‎stormy events that hit Egypt during and after the rule ‎of Morsi. On top of these events included attacks ‎levelled by the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which ‎Morsi hails, against the headquarters of the Supreme ‎Constitutional Court, Media City, the Sunni Islam ‎institution of Al-Azhar, and the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo.‎

Recommendations listed in the report assert there is a ‎pressing need to impose political disenfranchisement ‎on Islamist parties, and political Islam factions. Riad said: ‎"The committee urges all learn lessons from post-Morsi ‎violence in Egypt and draw up an agenda for a better ‎future for the country."‎

Topping the list of recommendations is the necessity of ‎dissolving political Islam parties. Under the title ‎‎"Conclusion," the report accuses the Muslim Brotherhood ‎of hijacking democracy and rejecting any kind of ‎national consensus during the period that followed the ‎ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak in February ‎‎2011 and until Morsi was ousted 3 July 2013. "In ‎accordance with this distorted conception of ‎democracy, the Brotherhood moved against the rule of ‎law in terms of attacking judges, security forces, the ‎army, the media, Al-Azhar, secular opposition and ‎cultural institutions," said the report, adding that, "The ‎lesson we must learn from this experience is that ‎political Islam forces must not be allowed to exercise ‎politics in this country." ‎

According to the report (page 43), "The Muslim Brotherhood ‎and other political Islam factions usually favours armed ‎confrontation at the expense of peaceful dialogue." ‎‎"They adopted the strategy of scorched earth and were ‎about to plunge Egypt into a civil war."‎

The report blamed former Minister of Defence ‎Mohamed Hussein Tantawi for helping the Muslim ‎Brotherhood — which emerged as the most organised force ‎after Mubarak's ouster and under the one-year rule of ‎the military — to reach power. "Tantawi, in doing his best ‎to save Egypt from civil war, automatically led the Muslim ‎Brotherhood to ride the wave and reach power."‎

Riad said the Muslim Brotherhood turned its post-Morsi sit-‎ins in Cairo and Giza into armed gatherings. "The ‎evidence detailed by the report show that the group's ‎leaders, espousing the extremist ideology of Islamist ‎ideologue Sayed Qotb, turned the sit-in into armed ‎confrontation against state authorities." "We ‎documented that the first shot was directed by an ‎armed Brotherhood activist, leading to the death of a ‎police officer," said Riad.‎

Riad said that while Brotherhood protesters in Giza's Al-Nahda ‎Square opted for a peaceful exit, those at Cairo's Rabaa ‎Al-Adawiyya Square "insisted on fighting police forces."‎

This led to the death of 607 citizens in Rabaa, while 86 died in and around Giza's Al-Nahda ‎Square.‎

Riad blamed the government for taking too much time ‎to disrupt the Brotherhood sit-ins. "If the government ‎moved early to disrupt them, the number of victims ‎would not have risen to such a big number," said Riad.‎

Riad cited former Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi as ‎saying that "the government could not disrupt the sit-‎ins during the holy month of Ramdan or the post-‎Ramadan feast." 

He said the committee had a lot of video films, taken ‎by citizens living around Rabaa Square, that clearly ‎show that the Brotherhood sit-ins included groups of ‎armed militias. "This led security forces to resort to force ‎after their appeals for protesters to leave peacefully went ‎to no avail," Riad said, explaining that "At around 6pm (14 August 2013) ‎security forces opted to storm Rabaa Square, impose ‎its control on the main mosque there and allow the ‎remaining protesters to leave peacefully at 8pm."‎

Riad said in addition to the necessity of stripping ‎political Islam parties of any right to exercise political activities, ‎there is a pressing need for a number of legislative ‎reforms and a cultural revolution. "Egypt still has a lot ‎of 'bombs' and these are about to explode if we do ‎not move fast enough to detonate them," said Riad. "On ‎top of these ... the necessity of reforming religious ‎discourse, promoting tolerance, and helping Coptic ‎Christians restore their churches, which were completely ‎or partially demolished by Islamist elements, not to ‎mention to get rid of [Islamists'] reactionary culture."‎

According to Riad, runaway growth of population in ‎Egypt is the biggest "bomb" facing the country. "It is ‎high time to face this bomb, because it stands behind ‎poor education, intolerant culture and poor ‎development," said Riad.‎

Responding to a question on why the Muslim Brotherhood ‎refused to testify before the committee, Riad said: "In ‎spite of their rejection, we were able to listen to the ‎testimony of one leading Brotherhood official, his wife ‎and son, not to mention that several female leaders of ‎the group also came to give their testimony."‎

Riad said Brotherhood leaders alleged that the army ‎used airstrikes to kill protesters in Rabaa, but they were ‎not able to give any proof of this. "Citizens living in the ‎area completely denied that any airstrikes were ‎mounted against the protesters."‎

Answering another question by Safwat Al-Biadi, an ‎Anglican bishop, on the report's recommendation that ‎families of Christians who were killed by Islamist ‎terrorists during the post-dispersal period receive ‎compensation, Riad said: "This is the responsibility of all ‎Egyptians rather than the government alone." "I urge ‎that a national fund be established to compensate all ‎peaceful protesters who lost their lives during the ‎bloody clashes," said Riad.‎

The report said as many as 52 churches in 23 ‎governorates were completely or partially destroyed ‎after the dispersals. "These acts of sabotage were ‎mounted after fiery speeches by Muslim Brotherhood ‎leaders incited violence against Christians, their churches and ‎property," the report said.‎