Thursday, July 4, 2013

Egyptian army ousts Morsi, orders new elections

The military plan calls for a short transition rule followed by elections. Chief judge of constitutional court put in charge.

CAIRO — Egypt's military suspended the constitution Wednesday and ordered new elections, ousting the country's first freely elected president after he defied army demands to implement radical reforms or step down.
Army chief of staff Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, speaking on national television in front of a row of prominent political and religious leaders, said the military was forced to act after President Mohammed Morsi had refused for weeks to set up a national reconciliation government.
Al-Sisi said the chief judge of the constitutional court, backed by technical experts, would have full powers to run the country until the constitution is amended and new elections are held. Adli al-Mansour, the 67-year-old head of Egypt's supreme constitutional court, is to be sworn in Thursday as interim president, state media reported.
The army said the interim government would set the timetable for elections.
Morsi, the country's first democratically elected leader, responded quickly, posting a message on his presidential Facebook page saying he rejects the army statement as a "military coup." He and his presidential team were under house arrest at a Republican Guard barracks, a spokesman for his Muslim Brotherhood said early Thursday.
Egyptian officials told the Associated Press that the head of the Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, and his deputy, Khairat al-Shater, had also been arrested.
President Obama said in a statement that he was "deeply concerned" by the day's events and called on the Egyptian military to "move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters."
Obama ordered a review of U.S. aid to Egypt.
In Tahrir Square, the political heart of Cairo, roars of joy erupted from tens of thousands of Egyptians after Morsi was deposed. In a celebration that for hours, they danced in the streets, set off fireworks, waved flags and hoisted friends on their shoulders.
"The Egyptian army is the best army on Earth," said Ahmed Mido, 21, a soccer player.
"We are proud of our army," said Jihan Spahi, 55, as she marched into the square early Wednesday night. "It's behind us."
On its website, Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood called the move a "conspiracy against legitimacy, a military coup that wastes popular will and brings Egypt back to despotism."
The Brotherhood's TV channel and other Islamist outlets went off the air, and some personnel were arrested, Ahram Online reported. Al Jazeera announced later that its Egyptian service was taken off the air after security forces stormed its Cairo building and detained journalists and guests.
Al-Sisi warned Egyptians to remain peaceful during the transition period, calling on them to "steer away from violence that will bring more tension and the shedding of blood." He said the military and the security forces would move "firmly and strictly" against any threat to peace.
As a precaution, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo ordered the evacuation of all non-essential staff.
In Alexandria, the country's second largest city, 10 people were reported dead in clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents, state media reported. Four Morsi supporters died late Wednesday in clashes with security forces in the northern city of Marsa Matrouh, an Islamist stronghold, the governor told Reuters.
In Kafr El-Sheikh, in the Nile Delta, 118 people had been injured in clashes by late Wednesday, Ahram Online reported.
Thousands of Morsi's supporters gathered outside Cairo University to protest the army's announcement, but there were no reports of violence. Early Thursday, according to Al Jazeera, Egyptian media reported that security forces were preparing to clear the rally and that arrest warrants had been issued for members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In its earlier statement, the Brotherhood said that religious scholars "condemn the coup and affirm the necessity of upholding the elected president," and that "millions in many squares in Egypt have started a sit-in in support of legitimacy."
The country's leading Muslim and Christian clerics said at a news conference that they backed the army's action and transition plan.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke Tuesday by phone with al-Sisi, the Pentagon said. Officials declined to discuss the content of the call, but the White House has said it is committed to the democratic process in Egypt.
Mohammed ElBaradei, the leader of the liberal opposition, said the "2011 revolution was re-launched" with the declaration by the country's top general, whom Morsi had promoted.
In the end, the army moved quickly and decisively. Al-Sisi spoke only 48 hours after the military issued its ultimatum to Morsi to yield to weekend protests by millions of demonstrators nationwide.
Morsi, in an emotional address Tuesday night, rejected the army's demands, saying he was legitimately elected and could not be forced to resign.
In response, the army chief said, the armed forces felt it had no choice but to dismiss the president and "contain the cause of division and the roots of tensions and confront the challenges to exit the current crisis."
He said the armed forces acted out of its "patriotic and historical responsibility."


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