CAIRO - An Egyptian court on Tuesday tossed out a government decree
allowing the army to arrest civilians, a setback to military rulers
preparing for this week's formal handover to Mohamed Morsy, Egypt's
first Islamist president.
The Muslim Brotherhood and other opponents of military rule were furious
when the army-backed interim government empowered soldiers to arrest
civilians, effectively reinstating Hosni Mubarak's hated state of
emergency, which lapsed on May 31.
The deposed president had used emergency law throughout his 30 years in power to repress Islamists and other dissenters.
"The court has blocked the decision of the Justice Minister that gave
military and military intelligence officers powers of arrest," said
Cairo administrative court Judge Ali Fikry.
With Islamists and generals set for a long power struggle, there was no
indication the court ruling was part of any army-Brotherhood compromise
on Egypt's future governance.
But Brotherhood officials said they had struck some accords with the
generals on the president's prerogatives, on an assembly that is
supposed to write a long-delayed constitution, and on the fate of the
dissolved Islamist-dominated parliament.
The army council that has ruled Egypt since Mubarak's fall stripped the
presidency of many of its powers in a decree issued just as the
presidential run-off vote ended on June 17.
Three days earlier, the Supreme Constitutional Court, still staffed by
Mubarak-era judges, had dissolved the lower house of parliament, saying
rules had been broken when it was elected six months ago.
That decision, backed by the army, threatened to force a new
parliamentary election, which could erode the large bloc won by the
Brotherhood and its allies, and further undermine Egypt's uncertain and
sometimes bloody transition to democracy.
The Brotherhood ordered its followers to stage open-ended street protests against what it called a military coup.
Yet behind the scenes, it has been negotiating with the generals to
define the president's authority and salvage at least part of the
dissolved parliament, in return for concessions that would safeguard
some military privileges.
"No president without powers"
"We do not accept having a president without powers. The solution being
worked out now is scaling back those restrictions so that President Morsy can deliver to the people what he promised," said Essam Haddad, an
aide to the president.
Military officials were not available for comment.
The new president will be sworn in on Saturday, probably before the
Constitutional Court. The Brotherhood will also stage a symbolic
swearing-in ceremony in Tahrir Square.
Presidents were previously sworn in by parliament, whose building is now shuttered and under military guard.
Morsy, seeking to fulfill a promise of inclusive government, will then
name six vice-presidents - a woman, a Christian and others drawn from
non-Brotherhood political groups - to act as an advisory panel, said
Sameh el-Essawi, another aide to Morsy.
In another break with the past, Morsy said on his Facebook page that his
portrait should not hang in state offices and that his guards should
not turn relatives of slain protesters away from the palace. He also
promised not to hold up traffic until his motorcade had passed, as
The presidential election has set the stage for a tussle between the
military, which provided Egypt's rulers for six decades, and the
Brotherhood, the traditional opposition - sidelining secular liberals
who ignited the anti-Mubarak revolt.
Haddad said the military would keep control of its budget and internal
affairs but the generals would have to keep their hands off the stalled
In its power grab, the army gave itself the right to veto articles of
the constitution that the assembly will draft, angering the Brotherhood,
which itself wants a big say.
"The negotiations involve loosening the grip of the generals on the
constitutional assembly so that it can draft the new constitution
without interference," Haddad said.
A senior Brotherhood aide said the generals had agreed to lift their
veto power over articles drafted by the 100-member assembly, provided
that about 10 of its Islamist members were replaced with technocrats
favored by the military.
Sharing the spoils
The aide, who asked not to be named, said Morsy's team and the generals
had also agreed on how ministries should be divided in the cabinet, with
the Brotherhood getting finance and foreign affairs, but not the
defence, interior or justice portfolios.
Morsy met police commanders on Tuesday at the police academy where
Mubarak's trial was held. The police come under the Interior Ministry,
run by ex-police chiefs in Mubarak's day.
The Brotherhood has pledged to reform a ministry seen as a tool of political coercion and responsible for many past abuses.
Forty-one officers of the once-feared State Security agency, including
its former head Hassan Abdel Rahman, were sent to a criminal court on
Tuesday on charges of destroying state documents after the anti-Mubarak
revolt, judicial sources said.
Abdel Rahman was among six commanders acquitted this month of complicity
in the killing of protesters. Mubarak and his former interior minister
were convicted of failing to prevent the killings and sentenced to life
The military, which has had its own rivalries with the security services
in the past, has striven to clip the wings of an Islamist movement seen
for decades as a danger to the state.
While it finally accepted that Morsy had defeated a former general in
the presidential race, it has also appointed a general to run the
presidency's financial affairs.
Losing candidate Ahmed Shafik, a former air force chief, left Egypt on
Tuesday for a religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, aides said, a day
after a prosecutor referred corruption lawsuits naming him to an
The army moved swiftly to shut parliament after the Supreme Court's
ruling that the Brotherhood's party and others should not have run
candidates for the one-third of seats reserved for individuals as well
as the two-thirds of seats for party lists.
Brotherhood officials said the army had agreed in talks that the election would be re-run only for the individual seats.
The Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest and most organized Islamist group, often
met army generals after Mubarak's fall on Feb. 11, 2011, in an apparent
effort to manage the transition equably.
But strains swiftly emerged. The Islamists were frustrated at
parliament's lack of sway over government policy, while the army grew
uneasy about the Brotherhood's drive for power.