Constitutional Assembly Formed | Violence Continues In N.Sinai

July 17, 2013 . By

Egypt’s general prosecutor ordered the arrest of Essam Sultan, a leading member of the Wasat Party, a moderate Islamist party, for “insulting the judiciary.” The detention of four Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat El-Shater, Freedom and Justice Party head Saad Al-Katatni, former Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef, and senior Brotherhood leader Rashad Bayoumi, was extended for a further 15 days. The leaders were initially detained on charges of inciting violence in clashes following June 30.

Interim President Adly Mansour officially formed a constitutional assembly responsible for suggesting amendments to the suspended 2012 constitution. The Supreme Judicial Council nominated six members, while the Supreme Council of Universities nominated a further four. These ten judges and lawyers make up the first of the two committees to be charged with modifying the constitution prior to a national referendum.

Presidential advisor for political affairs Mostafa Higazy announced that the transitional period, which includes amending the constitution and electing a new Parliament and President, would be completed within nine months. While the nine-month period was specified, Higazi went on to say that deadlines for drafting the constitution would not be “strictly binding,” noting that the committee “would be given all the time it needs to draft a constitution [that] lacks the faults that were found in the 2012 constitution.”

Mohamed Ali Bishr, former Minister for Local Development and member of the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, met with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Catherine Ashton to discuss the situation in Egypt and the roles of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party. Bishr and other Muslim Brotherhood members were nominated by the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy to express the group’s “[rejection of] the coup and [condemnation of] the assault on constitutional legitimacy and the practices of the security bodies against peaceful demonstrators.” Bishr further urged the EU to condemn the coup against Morsi. Ashton affirmed the EU’s noninvolvement in the domestic political situation and condemned violence against peaceful protesters.

At a press conference in Amman, US Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that it was too early to predict the future of Egypt after the political demise of Morsi. Kerry added that “order needs to be restored, stability needs to be restored, rights need to be protected … and the country needs to be able to return to normal business.” The US State Department denied recent Egyptian media reports that claim that the United States had financially supported the Muslim Brotherhood and that President Obama had secretly been questioned by the US Congress. The State Department reiterated that “[the United States has] provided economic and military assistance to the Government of Egypt and assistance to other programs that support the Egyptian people.”

Michael Bock, the German Ambassador to Egypt, spoke regarding his country’s stance on the political situation in Egypt, stating that the recent June 30 demonstrations were a continuation of the “January 25 Revolution.” He suggested that Morsi’s time in office had been “marred by many errors,” including the rushing of the 2012 constitution to a vote, which “indicated a clear disregard of the democratic process.” Bock also indicated that “Morsi’s release [would be] useful for the country’s re-democratization.”

Amnesty International released a report summarizing testimony from detainees who stated that they had been “denied their legal right to a lawyer and prohibited from contacting their families.” Furthermore, detainees also reported various forms of abuse while in custody, including being subjected to electric shocks and beatings. Hassiba Hadj Sahroui, Amnesty’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director, stated that it would be impossible for Egyptians to establish trust in their judicial system “if security forces continue to exclusively target Morsi and his supporters.”

The trend of violence in Northern Sinai continued as three army checkpoints at the Rafah border crossing were again attacked by unknown assailants using rocket-propelled grenades, leaving six soldiers injured. Unknown assailants also attacked the Sheikh Zuweid police station, killing one policeman and injuring two more. Other attackers killed a second policeman and Central Security Forces (CSF) member outside of his home. Assailants also shot at the Arish police station, fatally hitting a CSF conscript before escaping the scene.

Army forces intercepted a van containing 19 “Grad” rockets that were destined for Cairo. A spokesman for the armed forces office in Cairo stated that the rockets were found during a search of a vehicle at a checkpoint between Suez and Cairo. Additionally, the driver was in possession of an automatic rifle and was referred for prosecution. As the rockets were found closer to Suez, it is believed that they are linked to the continuing violence in the Sinai.