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Egypt’s constitution to grant immunity to military

Press TV – November 30, 2013

Egypt’s constitution-drafting committee has agreed to an article that grants immunity to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

According to a draft published in Egypt’s state media on Thursday, the new constitution would grant more powers to the SCAF and could ban Islamic parties completely.

The 50-member assembly is scheduled to finish the draft of the constitution this week. The constitution will then be put to a referendum in December.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the army chief and minister of defense, had been seeking immunity for the military council for a period of five to ten years.

It has also been leaked that he asked for a media campaign to lobby for a specific clause to be included in the constitution. The clause would allow Sisi to retain his post as defense minister in the event he loses in the presidential election.

The military representatives of the committee also called for the constitution to allow the military to name the defense minister during the next two presidential terms. The move has been widely criticized by legal experts, who say this would give the military more power than the president.

Egypt has been experiencing unrelenting violence since July 3, when the army ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s government, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the parliament. It also appointed the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mahmoud Mansour, as the new interim president.

The government of Mansour has launched a bloody crackdown on Morsi supporters and arrested more than 2,000 Muslim Brotherhood members, including the party’s leader, Mohamed Badie, who was detained on August 20.

About 1,000 people were killed in a week of violence between Morsi supporters and security forces after police dispersed their protest camps in a deadly operation on August 14. The massacre sparked international condemnation and prompted world bodies to call for an independent investigation into the violence.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt declares 70 army generals retired: Report

Press TV – September 4, 2012

A report says the Egyptian government has announced the retirement of 70 army generals, weeks after President Mohamed Morsi replaced Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi as defense minister with Major General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The new defense minister made the announcement, adding that six members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) have also been dismissed, according to a report by the Egyptian daily al-Shorouk.

The six SCAF members will however remain in the armed forces, the paper said.

On August 12, Morsi dismissed Tantawi from his post, canceling a constitutional declaration issued by the military that restricted presidential powers.

Tantawi was Egypt’s defense minister for nearly two decades under former dictator Hosni Mubarak. He headed Egypt’s SCAF, which took power in February 2011 after Egyptians launched a revolution against Mubarak’s regime in January, which eventually brought an end to the dictatorship.

Morsi also ordered the retirement of the military chief of staff, Sami Anan, replacing him with Sedqi Sobhi Sayyid Ahmed.

On August 22, Egyptian lawyer Assem Kandil filed the first legal complaint against several officials in the African state including Tantawi.

“I did so because I accuse them all of killing protesters during the series of bloody protests in Egypt following last year’s uprising along with wasting public money in the state’s spending on the parliamentary election,” the lawyer said.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Egypt declares 70 army generals retired: Report

Egypt: Mursi retires army chief Tantawi

Morsi changes Egypt Army leadership; cancels addendum to Constitutional declaration; appoints Mahmoud Mekki as vice president

Ahram Online | August 12, 2012

President Morsi made a bundle of sweeping decisions on Sunday afternoon, announced by the presidential spokesperson in a televised statement.

First, Morsi cancelled the addendum to the constitutional declaration, which was issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on 17 June. The addendum included clauses that gave the armed forces a high level of autonomy; whereas SCAF had the final say in all issues related to the military. It also stipulated that the head of SCAF, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, was to remain minister of defence until a new constitution is drafted.

Secondly, Morsi issued a decision to retire Hussein Tantawi, the minister of defence and the general commander of the Armed Forces.

Morsi also retired Sami Anan, the Amry’s Chief of Staff, from his duties.

Morsi also decided to award both men state medals and appoint them as advisors to the president.

Thirdly, the president appointed the head of the military intelligence, Abdel Fatah El-Sisi, as Minister of Defence to replace Tantawi.

Sedky Sobhy, the commander of the Third Army, was appointed as Chief of Staff of the armed forces.

Morsi also retired the Commander of the Navy, Mohab Memish, and appointed him as head of the Suez Canal Authority.

Reda Hafez, the commander of the Air Force, was also retired and appointed as minister of Military Production.

Mohamed El-Assar, the SCAF member in charge of armaments, was appointed as assistant to the Minsiter of Defence.

Fourth, Morsi appointed Mahmoud Mekki, the deputy head of the Cassation Court, as his Vice President.

~

Al Akhbar reports:

… Tantawi was defense minister for nearly two decades under Mubarak but was much despised in Egypt.

The military council’s second in command, Chief of Staff Sami Annan, was also ordered to retire.

A general told Reuters that the decisions had been made in consultation with Tantawi.

“The decision was based on consultation with the field marshal and the rest of the military council,” General Mohamed el-Assar told Reuters. …

August 12, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Egypt: Mursi retires army chief Tantawi

The Future Direction of Egypt’s Revolution

By ESAM AL-AMIN | CounterPunch | June 19, 2012

Against all odds the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) candidate, Dr. Muhammad Mursi won Egypt’s first presidential election since the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak… but barely. Although the official results will not be announced until Thursday, the final tally shows that Mursi received 13.3 million votes (52 percent) while Mubarak’s last prime minister and the candidate of the military and the regime remnants, Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, garnered 12.4 million votes (48 percent).

It should never have been that close. Countless people wonder how a popular revolution that united millions of Egyptians against a corrupt regime and earned the world’s admiration, could have resulted in that same loathed regime on the brink of reclaiming power after little more than a year. Of course, the direct answer to this question is the ominous role played by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took control of the country after Mubarak’s downfall, as well as the institutions of Egypt’s deep security state.

Their tactics included the direct manipulations of the elections process, the inexplicably favorable decisions by the Mubarak-era Presidential Elections Commission, the use of state media as well as private media outlets controlled by Mubarak-era corrupt businessmen to frighten the public about the specter of an impending theocracy, the clever ability to play the pro-revolution groups against each other, and the SCAF-appointed government’s deliberate disruption of the daily lives of ordinary Egyptians through the constriction of key staples and a lack of security in the street.  Soon the public associated the revolution with instability, shortages and chaos. Dejected, many wished for the days of the old regime.

Throughout last year and aided by the Muslim Brotherhood’s missteps and behind-the-scenes dalliances with the generals, SCAF was able to create acute alienation and sow real mistrust between the MB, the country’s largest organized movement, and the rest of the pro-revolution and youth groups. By the end of March 2012, SCAF felt so emboldened by the success of its plan that it began to openly challenge and threaten the now alienated MB, despite the fact that the group was by that time firmly in charge of both chambers of parliament.

By the end of the first round of the presidential elections, SCAF succeeded in propelling its preferred candidate to second place behind the MB candidate. Ironically, both sides calculated that their chances of capturing the presidency would be greatly enhanced if they faced each other. The military’s candidate believed that he would then reinvent the old regime by presenting to the confused and frightened public with the stark choices between the civil state represented by himself and a menacing religious state epitomized by his opponent. On the other hand, the MB believed that its best chance would be to face a candidate from the loathed Mubarak era so as to force the pro-revolution groups to support its candidate despite the ill feelings generated towards the Islamic group (especially when it abandoned the youth groups during their confrontations with SCAF during much of last year).

After the first round of the presidential elections, the pro-revolution groups garnered almost 15 million votes (with Mursi receiving 5.8 million). On the other hand, Mubarak-era affiliated candidates received 8 million votes (led by Shafiq’s 5.5 million votes.) But the two major (though defeated) candidates supported by the pro-revolution groups in the first round were Hamdein Sabahi and Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, receiving 4.8M and 4.1M votes respectively.

Although Abol Fotouh promptly threw his support behind Mursi, citing the threat to the revolution if the military man won, Sabahi asked his supporters to invalidate their votes or boycott the elections, hoping to create a dynamic where both candidates could somehow lose in the court of public opinion.  This would set the stage for his comeback as the pro-revolution and pro-civil state candidate. Quietly, SCAF’s candidate hoped that enough of Sabahi’s supporters would boycott the elections or invalidate their votes so that the numerical advantage of the pro-revolution groups would be neutralized.

As the military’s scheme was in full force relying on media offensive, bribes, and scare tactics, several polls conducted by state-sponsored institutions confirmed to SCAF that Shafiq had the momentum. The support of the military and the institutions of the deep state became even bolder, so much so that many political analysts thought the elections were practically over. To push this sentiment of inevitability, SCAF threw caution to the wind and committed a major error in judgment.  In fact, it might have actually cost Shafiq the election.

Since the standoff between SCAF and the MB in March, it was widely known that SCAF could push for the dissolution of the elected parliament at any time in order to check the MB’s rise to power. The argument advanced by many pro-revolution groups that had reservations in supporting Mursi was that they did not want the MB to have unchecked control over both branches of government, the legislative and the executive. So when the High Constitutional Court dissolved the parliament two days before the elections, this brazen act of disregard for the electoral will of the Egyptian people actually backfired. A major segment of the Egyptian electorate, who intended to boycott or invalidate their votes, were so infuriated that they decided to vote for Mursi even if they initially did not intend to cast a vote at all (in the final count, less than 1 percent of the electorate invalidated their votes by checking both names on the ballot). Had a half million people out of over 25 million votes cast flipped their votes, the military’s candidate would have won.)

Last winter, in a moment of candor President Jimmy Carter said after meeting with SCAF’s leaders that the military had no intention of relinquishing power. In recent weeks it became quite clear what that observation meant. First, SCAF would utilize the instruments of power of the deep state to install its candidate. If such a scheme did not materialize, SCAF had a back-up plan. In such a case, it would not only take several actions that strip the real powers of the elected president (if he comes from the revolutionary camp), but also usurp all the legislative and executive powers from the newly empowered groups.

Many political figures including former presidential candidate Abol Fotouh called SCAF’s blatant acts “a soft military coup d’état.” Here are a few examples of the power grab measures taken by SCAF in a matter of days:

1)    On June 14, SCAF sent the army to occupy the parliamentary building in anticipation of the dissolution of parliament by the High Court. Within days it issued its own decree to dissolve the parliament and reclaimed all legislative powers to itself. Typically when the parliament is dissolved, the president would be granted temporary legislative powers, to be reviewed later by the parliament when it is reconstituted.

2)    On the same day the Justice Minister made a mockery of the repealed martial laws by effectively restoring the emergency laws and empowering the military and security agencies to arrest and detain anyone indefinitely, as well as to try in military courts any person deemed a threat to public order.

3)    Within two hours of the closing of the polls on June 17, SCAF unilaterally issued a sweeping amended constitutional declaration that effectively transferred much of the presidential powers to itself. For example, it stripped the president of his role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and gave it to SCAF’s top general, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi. It prevented the president from promoting or dismissing any military personnel. It also granted itself veto power over any decision by the president related to any military matter including the declaration of war or any domestic use of the armed forces.

Now instead of the military working under the country’s president, the new declaration places the democratically elected president under the thumb of the military. It must be noted that such incredible measures are not dissimilar to the infamous and disastrous 1997 Turkish military coup d’état against the late Prime Minister Necmttin Erbakan.

4)    SCAF stripped the president and the executive branch from any matters related to the state budget. It even declared its own budget secret and not subject to any accountability while providing itself total immunity.

5)    Further, SCAF imposed its will on the new president by effectively retaining for itself the appointment of the most senior cabinet positions such as defense, foreign, and interior ministries, police, finance, justice, and intelligence.

6)    SCAF also started the process of dissolving the one-hundred member constitution-writing committee, appointed delicately by the parliament last week from across all the spectrum of Egyptian political and civil society. In the new constitutional declaration, SCAF gave itself the right to reappoint the one-hundred committee members in a direct violation of the constitutional amendments passed by the people in the March 2011 referendum.

Moreover, if that committee refused to give the military its coveted special status in the new constitution, SCAF claimed a veto power over any articles written in the draft. If the committee then overrides SCAF’s veto, the declaration empowers Mubarak’s appointed judges in the High Court to decide the dispute between the two parties, in an incredible attempt to impose the military’s dictates on the country.

7)    One day after the elections, as it became apparent that SCAF’s candidate was defeated, SCAF issued another decree that revived the National Defense Council (NDC), a body that has been dormant since the late 1980s.  The function of this council is to make decisions on all strategic, defense, and national security matters. In another affront to the first-ever civilian (not to mention democratically elected) president, the NDC’s members comprise eleven generals (all from SCAF) and only five civilians, including the president. It decides all matters by a majority vote, thus tying the hands of the president regardless of where he stands on a particular issue.

8)    Not content with its sweeping power grab, SCAF’s head, Tantawi, then issued another decree appointing one of his assistants, another military general, as the chief of staff of the new elected president to act as the eyes and ears of SCAF over the new president before he even took office. In the eyes of the military the new (read puppet) president would not even be allowed to appoint his own chief of staff.

As expected this wholesale usurpation of power by the military was universally condemned not only by the new elected president, the MB, and the rest of the revolutionary groups, but also by most civil society groups and public figures. Meanwhile, counting on a business as usual with the MB, SCAF has quietly started another tactic to pressure the MB into submission. It revived a court case seeking the dissolution of the MB, declaring it an illegal group and confiscating its assets. A decision on the matter is expected soon.

One of the reasons that SCAF hopes to get its way this time is because it relies on its experience during the last year of making behind-the-scenes deals with the MB. In fact, just a week before the elections, MB deputy leader and strongman Khairat El-Shater met with senior SCAF leaders, offering them a deal that would have granted the military generals many (but not all) of their requests in return for an accommodation of the MB candidate. SCAF’s response was cold and aloof, believing that their candidate was a shoe-in in the elections without the need to compromise.  Little did El-Shater know, they were in fact preparing not only to defeat the Islamic candidate but also to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament.

But after the dissolution of parliament and the anticipated disbanding of the constitution-writing committee, as well as the usurpation of legislative and executive powers by SCAF, the MB decided to re-join the other pro-revolution and civil society groups in challenging the military’s suffocating control over the country, taking to the streets in massive numbers in all of this week.

This showdown between SCAF and the deep state on one hand, and the pro-revolution forces (newly empowered by the defeat of the military’s candidate) promises to engulf the country for the days and weeks ahead. If the Islamic parties led by the MB and the other pro-revolution supporters led by the youth groups, as well as many respected judges across the country such as Judge Husam El-Gheryani (head of the Supreme Judiciary Council as well as the chairman of the constitution-writing committee) join together and take a firm stand against the military, then it might be very difficult for SCAF to have its way.

The demands of the revolutionary groups should be clear: the return of the military to its barracks without any interference of the political or civilian affairs of the state. SCAF must immediately rescind its unconstitutional declaration usurping the legislative and executive powers from the democratically elected parliament and president. It should also cease all efforts to dissolve the constitution-writing committee and allow the political process as negotiated by all various political parties to take place. It should finally halt its behind-the-scenes manipulation of the judiciary to interfere in political matters.

The pro-revolution forces have fortunately dodged a bullet by defeating the military’s candidate. But the struggle to reclaim their revolution must continue to persist. This time all pro-revolution and pro-democracy groups must realize that they will have to swim or drown together as they face the last battle to dismantle the military and security state. No more making behind-closed-doors deals or giving the benefit of the doubt in a tacit understanding between the military and some political groups. The MB must realize that it gained more than 7.5M votes (for a total of 13.3M) from the pro-revolution forces in the second round, after reaching its peak in the first round with 5.8M votes. It must show respect and offer real partnership to these groups.

Hall of fame baseball player Yogi Berra once said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is.” In theory, pro-revolution supporters should put all their disagreements aside and unite until their remarkable revolution prevails as all counter-revolutionary elements within the state are purged and all the obstacles to its ultimate success are eradicated. It is indeed prudent to think that all such groups could set aside their differences (whether perceived or real) once they realize how hard and to what extent their opponents are determined to break their spirit for real change.

Revolutions are ultimately about the simultaneous act of a great number of people who decide to stand up for the greater good of society over self-interest. Such selfless conduct is often accompanied with the willingness to sacrifice whatever it takes to fulfill the genuine desire for public good and human progress.

Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at alamin1919@gmail.com

June 20, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on The Future Direction of Egypt’s Revolution

The True Face of Egypt’s Military

By ESAM AL-AMIN | CounterPunch | June 15, 2012

The masks dropped. The cards are shown.

For over a year, Egyptians have wondered who was leading the efforts to frustrate and obliterate their nascent revolution, or what was dubbed in the local media as the “third party” or the “hidden bandit.”

But the mystery is no more.

It was none other than the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the same body that took power from deposed president Hosni Mubarak under the guise of leading the transitional period towards democracy. It was a masterful work of political art.

The final act was on display on Thursday, June 14, 2012, when Egypt’s High Constitutional Court (HCC) not only ruled against banning the military’s candidate and Mubarak’s last Prime Minister, Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, but also dissolved parliament, the only institution that represented the political will of the people in post-revolutionary Egypt. It is important to note that all the justices on the HCC were appointed by Mubarak, and that most if not all are considered regime loyalists.

Incidentally, last March, Parliamentary Speaker and MB leader, Dr. Saad Katatni, said that he was told, in the presence of SCAF’s deputy commander, Gen. Sami Anan, by SCAF’s appointed Prime Minister Dr. Kamal Ganzouri, that the order to dissolve the parliament was in the drawer but would come at the appropriate time.

This dramatic announcement was therefore followed by the parliament passing a law banning most of the former senior officials of the Mubarak regime (including Shafiq) from politics on the grounds of corrupting Egypt’s political life and institutions for decades. Nevertheless, Shafiq was shortly reinstated by the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC) even though it had no jurisdiction on the matter. It is perhaps important to note that the head of the PEC is also the Chief Justice of the HCC. He declared on the same day that the parliamentary elections’ law (that resulted in the victory of the Islamic parties, led by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), winning seventy five percent of the seats) was unconstitutional. It was the same law that several of the same justices assured all political parties last summer that it passed constitutional muster.

With this brazen act of thwarting the political will of the Egyptian people, the emerging Islamic and revolutionary parties have now been totally stripped of their political ascendency, less than five months after their rise to power. This was accomplished simply by utilizing the institutions of the deep state crafted by a regime that was controlled for decades by corrupt officials, senior military officers, and intelligence agencies. Further, a Mubarak era military man is now on the verge of being “elected” president using the assorted tools of the democratic process.

One of the major demands of the revolution was to end the three-decade old emergency law that allowed the security agencies and the military to arbitrarily arrest and abuse the civil and human rights of any activist at will. But under tremendous public pressure throughout last year, these laws were repealed at the end of last May. But what was kicked out of the door crawled back through the window. Egypt’s Justice Minister announced this week, less than two weeks after the repeal went into effect, that he was empowering all military officers and intelligence personnel to arrest indefinitely any person deemed a security threat to public order.

In a transparently coordinated fashion, before parliament could react to this shameless challenge to the essence of the revolution, it was dissolved within 24 hours by the High Court. Further, within minutes of the decision to dissolve the parliament, hundreds of military and security officers occupied its buildings, preventing any member to enter or even clear their offices. In short, Egypt has come a full circle, the transition to democracy was aborted, the process hijacked, and its remarkable revolution put on life support.

The final act of quietly killing the hopes of Egypt’s youth and the aspirations of its people is coming this Sunday when the presidential elections end in the declaration of a Shafiq presidency. The other candidate in this charade is represented by the MB’s Dr. Muhammad Mursi. For weeks, the MB has been warning against elections fraud perpetrated by the institutions of the deep state and led by its security and intelligence services.

For example, the Elections Commission has refused to hand over the voter lists, which it had no problem doing last winter during the parliamentary elections. But the problem is that these same lists have now increased by a whopping 4.5 million voters, raising suspicions of multiple registrations of regime loyalists who might vote multiple times in different provinces over the two-day elections process (for example 200 thousand regime loyalists voting in twenty different precincts.) Furthermore, elections officials announced that they would refuse to allow elections’ monitors to stay in the same rooms where the ballot boxes are left unattended for 12 hours between the first and the second days of the elections, although they were allowed to stay in and watch the boxes overnight in the previous parliamentary elections last winter.

In addition, the government announced that it is giving all its 6 million employees a two-day vacation and free public transportation to boost participation (an indirect prodding of government employees and their families to vote for Shafiq). In a blatant violation of elections’ laws, hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on media propaganda to boost SCAF’s candidate, as well as payments to local officials especially in the delta region, to secure the peasants’ votes.

In a nutshell, the intense involvement of the security state is now in the open. But most Egyptians are frustrated and feel that they have been robbed of making a choice consistent with their sixteen-month popular uprising. Before their own eyes they see how the Mubarak regime is slowly being re-invented with the full backing of state institutions under the direction of SCAF, the same military that promised to fulfill the objectives of the revolution.

Most pro-revolution groups, activists, and public intellectuals have called on MB’s candidate Mursi to withdraw from the presidential elections so as to deny the military’s candidate any claim of legitimacy once he is “elected.” But in its desperate attempt to show any achievement in its one-year dalliance with SCAF, it appears that the MB is pressing ahead with the elections. Once again the Islamic group has demonstrated its inability to join in, let alone lead, any revolutionary path, even though its leaders understand fully the determination of SCAF and the state institutions to manipulate the elections and force their candidate on the rest of the people.

During his final interview before the elections, Mursi understood the stakes and his long electoral odds as the elections are being manipulated. Although he believed that he would easily win in free and fair elections, he admitted that elections’ fraud were certain to take place. He further said that he was recently told by President Jimmy Carter that Mubarak was for decades “sleeping in Israel’s bed,” and that “Shafiq would follow in his footsteps.” The former president, who raised many concerns about the first round elections, had earlier stated that he did not believe that the military would hand over power to civilian rule.

Meanwhile, Shafiq, who does not deny his admiration for Mubarak and considers him a role model, has brazenly declared that his first state visit would be to the U.S. in order to signal that he was its preferred candidate. He also said that he would not only keep the peace treaty with Israel, but would also deepen it.

Thus, the MB’s delusion that SCAF will allow it to contest power will soon be exposed. Sooner or later the group will realize that it simply can neither outmaneuver nor win against the military or the deep security state on its own. It will have to fundamentally change its strategic choices and genuinely adopt the revolutionary path in order to defeat the entrenched interests of the deep state. Even if by some miracle their candidate wins the election, the past year has demonstrated that in every state-controlled institution, including the judiciary, no real change will take place unless all the counter-revolutionary elements are purged, a concept that is lost on the MB’s leadership that is used to slow approach reforms or behind-the-scenes questionable deals to preserve its interests.

Disappointed, yet again, with the MB’s attitude to ignore their consensus, most of the revolutionary groups have vowed to press on with their revolution that has been deeply, but not yet gravely, wounded. Former presidential candidate Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, a favorite among many revolutionary and youth groups, has declared that the latest decisions by the High Court allowing the candidacy of Shafiq and the dissolution of parliament were nothing short of a soft coup d’état orchestrated by the military. He called for the immediate establishment of a revolutionary leadership council comprised of all pro-revolution groups and leaders to challenge the military hold on power and Shafiq’s inevitable presidency.

Sensing these threats dozens of such groups that have sacrificed so much since the early days of the revolution, have vowed to join in and continue the difficult struggle to dislodge the military and achieve the main objective of the revolution in establishing a true democratic civil state and ending the culture of the deep security state. Thousands have taken to the streets, while hundreds started a sit-in in Tahrir Square.

They now quietly admit that a hard lesson has been learned. This time their slogan is not “the people and the army are one.” Rather their cry is: “This time we are serious, we will not leave it (the revolution) to anyone.”

Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at alamin1919@gmail.com

June 15, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , | Comments Off on The True Face of Egypt’s Military