Authorities escalated their crackdown Wednesday on the Muslim Brotherhood, ordering the arrest of its top leader for inciting violence this week in which more than 50 people were killed in clashes with security forces.
One week after the military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi and began moving against his Muslim Brotherhood, prosecutors issued a warrant for the arrest of the group’s supreme leader, Mohammed Badie, as well as nine other leading Islamists.
Members of the Brotherhood and other Islamists have denounced Morsi’s ouster and have refused offers by the military-backed interim leadership to join any transition plan for a new government. They demand nothing less than Morsi’s release from detention and his reinstatement as president.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atti gave the first official word on Morsi in days, saying the ousted leader is in a safe place and is being treated in a “very dignified manner.” No charges have been leveled against him, Abdel-Atti said.
“For his own safety and for the safety of the country, it is better to keep him. … Otherwise, consequences will be dire,” he added.
On Friday, Badie delivered a fiery speech near the mosque to tens of thousands of his supporters in which he told them, “A-llah make Morsi victorious. … We are his soldiers. We defend him with our lives.”
Following that speech, thousands of Islamists marched in the streets and clashed with Morsi opponents in the heart of Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt, leaving more than 30 dead and 200 injured.
In one of the most dramatic instances of violence that day, two Morsi opponents were killed when they were pushed off a roof by supporters of the ousted president in the second-largest city of Alexandria.
After a week of violence and mass demonstrations, Egyptians were hoping that Wednesday’s start of the month-long holiday of Ramadan will significantly calm the streets. The sunrise-to-sunset fast cuts down on daytime activity, although there are fears of unrest at night.
The military-backed interim president, Adly Mansour, issued a fast-track timetable Monday for the transition. His declaration set out a seven-month timetable for elections but also a truncated, temporary constitution laying out the division of powers in the meantime.
The accelerated process was meant, in part, to reassure the U.S. and other Western allies that Egypt is on a path toward democratic leadership. But it has faced opposition from the very groups that led the four days of mass protests that prompted the military to remove Morsi on July 3.
At the heart of liberals’ objections is that they wanted to write a new constitution, not amend the one written under Morsi by an Islamist-dominated panel. That constitution contained several articles that sparked street protests and violence in 2012. The only Islamist party that backed the military’s ouster of Morsi has been vetoing any rewriting of the constitution.
New Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, who was appointed Tuesday by Mansour, is holding consultations on a cabinet. In what is seen as an attempt at reconciliation, el-Beblawi has said he will offer the Brotherhood, which helped propel Morsi to the presidency, posts in his transitional government. They have thus far refused.