Mohammed Morsi

CAIRO  — A statement on the Egyptian presidental office's Twitter account has quoted Mohammed Morsi as calling military measures "a full coup."

The denouncement was posted shortly after the Egyptian military announced it was ousting Morsi, who was Egypt's first freely elected leader though he drew ire with his Islamist leanings. The military says it has replaced him with the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, called for early presidential election and suspended the Islamist-backed constitution.

Morsi was quoted as saying those measures "represent a full coup categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation."

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Egypt's military has ousted the nation's Islamist president, replacing him with the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, calling for early presidential election and suspending the Islamist-backed constitution.

Army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, said a government of technocrats will be appointed to run the country during a transition period he did not specify.

An aide of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Ayman Ali, said the former leader has been moved to an undisclosed location. He gave no details.

Cheers erupted among millions of protesters nationwide who were demanding Morsi's ouster. Fireworks lit the Cairo night sky. Morsi supporters elsewhere in the city shouted "No to military rule."

CAIRO — Egypt’s Islamist government is “strongly committed” to freedom of expression, a presidential spokesman insisted Wednesday, distancing the administration from legal proceedings against a popular comedian.

The London-based Amnesty International, however, warned in a statement of an “alarming new escalation of politically-motivated judicial harassment and arrests” in Egypt.

Presidential spokesman Omar Amer said, “The presidency did not submit any complaints” to the prosecutor’s office.

The case of the comedian, questioned this week over accusations he insulted the president and Islam on his weekly TV show, has set off a wave of criticism from as far away as Washington.

Amer said President Mohammed Morsi’s office was not involved in the investigation.

“Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, and there is a strong commitment toward it and there will be no deviation from that,” he said.

Amer’s comments echoed a statement issued by Morsi’s office late Tuesday. It said it recognizes the “importance of freedom of expression and fully respects press freedom.”

The complaints against satirist Bassem Youssef, the statement pointed out, were filed by “citizens.” Youssef was released on bail
after questioning.

Youssef’s interrogation, as well as arrest warrants against five anti-government activists on charges of inciting unrest, have prompted Morsi’s opponents to warn of a campaign to intimidate critics.

In its statement, Amnesty said the crackdown on freedom of expression has affected 33 people in the last two weeks.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Egypt’s Islamist president has been significantly weakened by a week of violent protests across much of the country, with his popularity eroding, the powerful military implicitly criticizing him and some of his ultraconservative Islamist backers distancing themselves from him.

In his seven months since becoming Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi has weathered a series of crises. But the liberal opposition is now betting the backlash against him is so severe that he and his Muslim Brotherhood will be forced to change their ways, breaking what critics say is their monopolizing of power.

Critics claim that Morsi’s woes are mostly self-inflicted, calling him overconfident and out of sync with the public. Now the relatively high death toll — around 60 — the spread of protests and the use of excessive force by the police are feeding a wave of anger at the Egyptian leader and the Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which he hails and which is the foundation of his administration.

Morsi did not help matters when he addressed the nation Sunday night in a brief but angry address in which he at times screamed and wagged his finger. In that speech, he slapped a 30-day state of emergency and curfew on three Suez Canal provinces hit the hardest by the violence and vowed to take even harsher measures if peace is not restored.

In response, the three cities defied the president in a rare open rebellion that handed him an embarrassing loss of face.

Thousands in the cities of Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez took to the streets on Monday and Tuesday just as the 9 p.m. curfew went into force. Underlining their contempt for him, they played soccer games, stores stayed open and there were even firework displays — all while troops deployed in Port Said and Suez stood by and watched.

Morsi was forced to back down somewhat and authorized the local governors to ease the measures. All three quickly did on Wednesday, reducing the hours of curfew from nine hours to as short as three.

The main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, demands Morsi create a national unity government and rewrite controversial parts of the constitution that the Brotherhood and other Islamists rammed through to approval last month. A broader government, they insist, is the only way to ease the violence and start dealing with Egypt’s mounting woes — particularly, an economy many fear is collapsing.

The liberals gained an unusual ally on Wednesday: one of the main political parties of the ultraconservative Islamist movement known as Salafis, the al-Nour Party, which has usually supported Morsi.

Morsi appears to see no need for concessions. On a quick visit to Germany on Wednesday, he downplayed the significance of the week’s violence.

“What is happening now in Egypt is natural in nations experiencing a shift to democracy,” Morsi told reporters in Berlin.

There is no need to form a unity government, he added, because a new government will be formed after parliament elections — expected in April at the earliest.

Morsi’s reply to critics who demand he widen the circle of decision-making has been to invite opponents to a national dialogue conference to discuss key issues. Almost all opposition parties have refused, calling the conference window-dressing for Brotherhood domination. The conference has held multiple sessions, mainly attended by Morsi’s Islamist allies.

Morsi’s supporters — and some of his aides — accuse the opposition of condoning violence and trying to overturn the democratic results of elections that brought Morsi and the Brotherhood to power.

Meanwhile, anger on the streets is mounting. Politicians may call for a unity government, but a growing bloc of the protesters say Morsi must go outright. 

A member part of the Black Bloc holds the Egyptian national flag during clashes with riot police near Tahrir Square, in Cairo, on Monday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Protesters battled police for hours in Cairo on Monday and thousands marched through Egypt’s three Suez Canal cities in direct defiance of a nighttime curfew and state of emergency, handing a blow to the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi’s attempts to contain five days of spiraling political violence.

Nearly 60 people have been killed in the wave of unrest, clashes, rioting and protests that have touched cities across the country but have hit the hardest in the canal cities, where residents have virtually risen up in outright revolt.

The latest death came on Monday in Cairo, where a protester died of gunshot wounds as youths hurling stones battled all day and into the night with police firing tear gas near Qasr el-Nil Bridge, a landmark over the Nile next to major hotels. In nearby Tahrir Square, protesters set fire to a police armored personnel carrier, celebrating as it burned in scenes reminiscent of the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

“I will be coming back here every day until the blood of our martyrs is avenged,” said 19-year-old carpenter Islam Nasser, who wore a Guy Fawkes mask as he battled police near Tahrir square.

Angry and at times screaming and wagging his finger, Morsi on Sunday declared a 30-day state of emergency and a nighttime curfew on the three Suez Canal cities of Suez, Ismailiya and Port Said and their provinces of the same names. He said he had instructed the police to deal “firmly and forcefully” with the unrest and threatened to do more if security was not restored.

But when the 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew began Monday evening, crowds marched through the streets of Port Said, beating drums and chanting, “Erhal, erhal,” or “Leave, leave” — a chant that first rang out during the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 but is now directed at Morsi.

An Egyptian Army tank deploys outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt. The Egyptian army sealed off the presidential palace Thursday as protesters defied a deadline to vacate the area, pressing forward with demands that Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi rescind decrees giving himself near-absolute power and withdraw a disputed draft constitution.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — An angry Mohammed Morsi refused Thursday to call off a referendum on a disputed constitution that has sparked Egypt’s worst political crisis in two years, drawing chants of “topple the regime!” from protesters who waved their shoes in contempt.

The Egyptian president’s uncompromising stand came a night after thousands of his supporters and opponents fought pitched battles outside his Cairo palace, leaving at least six dead and 700 injured.

Speaking in a nationally televised address, Morsi accused some in the opposition of serving remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime and vowed he would never tolerate anyone working for the overthrow of his “legitimate” government.

That brought shouts of “the people want to topple the regime!” from the crowd of 30,000 Morsi opponents — the same chant used in the protests that brought down Mubarak.

Morsi also invited the opposition to a “comprehensive and productive” dialogue starting Saturday at his presidential palace, but gave no sign that he might offer any meaningful concessions.

The opposition has already refused to engage Morsi unless he first rescinds decrees giving him nearly unrestricted powers and shelves the draft constitution hurriedly adopted by his Islamist allies in a marathon session last week.

Morsi said the referendum on the disputed charter would go ahead as scheduled on Dec. 15. He also refused to rescind the Nov. 22 decrees.

Reading from prepared notes, Morsi frequently broke off to improvise. He wore a black tie in mourning for the six people killed in Wednesday’s clashes.

Earlier Thursday, Morsi’s troubles grew when another of his advisers quit to protest his handling of the crisis, raising the number of those in his 17-person inner circle who have abandoned him to seven. The only Christian in a group of four presidential assistants has also quit.

Violence persisted into the night, with a group of protesters attacking the Cairo headquarters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, ransacking the ground floor. Another group of protesters attacked the Brotherhood’s offices in the Cairo district of Maadi. Outside the president’s house in his hometown of Zagazig, 50 miles north of Cairo, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters, security officials said.

During his speech, Morsi repeated earlier assertions that a conspiracy against the state was behind his move to assume near unrestricted powers, but he did not reveal any details of the plot.

“It is my duty ... to protect institutions of the nation,” he said. “I will always fulfill this role, no matter how much pressure or what the situation.”

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters, background, and opponents, foreground, clash outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Wednesday’s clashes began when thousands of Islamist supporters of Morsi descended on the area around the palace where some 300 of his opponents were staging a sit-in. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Egypt descended into political turmoil Wednesday over the constitution drafted by Islamist allies of President Mohammed Morsi. At least 211 people were wounded as supporters and opponents battled each other with firebombs, rocks and sticks outside the presidential palace.

Wednesday’s clashes began when thousands of Morsi’s Islamist supporters descended on an area near the presidential palace where some 300 of his opponents were staging a sit-in. The Islamists, members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, chased the protesters away from their base outside the palace’s main gate and tore down their tents. The Islamists portrayed their attack on opposition protesters as defense of the revolution.

The clashes outside the presidential palace in Cairo’s Heliopolis district marked an escalation in the deepening crisis. It was the first time supporters of rival camps fought each other since last year’s anti-Mubarak uprising, when the authoritarian leader’s loyalists sent sword-wielding supporters on horses and camels into Cairo’s Tahrir square in what became one of the uprising’s bloodiest days.

The large scale and intensity of the fighting marked a milestone in Egypt’s rapidly entrenched schism, pitting Morsi’s Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Islamists in one camp, against liberals, leftists and Christians in the other. The violence spread to other parts of the country later Wednesday.

Compounding Morsi’s woes, four of his advisers resigned, joining two other members of his 17-member advisory panel who have abandoned him since the crisis began.

The opposition is demanding that Morsi rescind the decrees giving him nearly unrestricted powers and shelve the controversial draft constitution the president’s Islamist allies rushed through last week in a marathon, all-night session shown live on state TV.

The huge scale of the opposition protests has dealt a blow to the legitimacy of the new charter, which opponents contend allows religious authorities too much influence over legislation, threatens to restrict freedom of expression and opens the door to Islamist control over day-to-day life.

If the referendum goes ahead as scheduled and the draft constitution is adopted, elections for parliament’s lawmaking lower chamber will be held in February.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters, background, and opponents, foreground, clash outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Wednesday’s clashes began when thousands of Islamist supporters of Morsi descended on the area around the palace where some 300 of his opponents were staging a sit-in. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Egypt descended into political turmoil Wednesday over the constitution drafted by Islamist allies of President Mohammed Morsi. At least 211 people were wounded as supporters and opponents battled each other with firebombs, rocks and sticks outside the presidential palace.

Wednesday’s clashes began when thousands of Morsi’s Islamist supporters descended on an area near the presidential palace where some 300 of his opponents were staging a sit-in. The Islamists, members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, chased the protesters away from their base outside the palace’s main gate and tore down their tents. The Islamists portrayed their attack on opposition protesters as defense of the revolution.

The clashes outside the presidential palace in Cairo’s Heliopolis district marked an escalation in the deepening crisis. It was the first time supporters of rival camps fought each other since last year’s anti-Mubarak uprising, when the authoritarian leader’s loyalists sent sword-wielding supporters on horses and camels into Cairo’s Tahrir square in what became one of the uprising’s bloodiest days.

The large scale and intensity of the fighting marked a milestone in Egypt’s rapidly entrenched schism, pitting Morsi’s Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Islamists in one camp, against liberals, leftists and Christians in the other. The violence spread to other parts of the country later Wednesday.

Compounding Morsi’s woes, four of his advisers resigned, joining two other members of his 17-member advisory panel who have abandoned him since the crisis began.

The opposition is demanding that Morsi rescind the decrees giving him nearly unrestricted powers and shelve the controversial draft constitution the president’s Islamist allies rushed through last week in a marathon, all-night session shown live on state TV.

The huge scale of the opposition protests has dealt a blow to the legitimacy of the new charter, which opponents contend allows religious authorities too much influence over legislation, threatens to restrict freedom of expression and opens the door to Islamist control over day-to-day life.

If the referendum goes ahead as scheduled and the draft constitution is adopted, elections for parliament’s lawmaking lower chamber will be held in February.

Egyptian protesters clash with security forces near Tahrir square, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Egyptian state television says the country’s highest appeal court has decided to suspend its work nationwide to protest the president’s decrees giving himself nearly absolute powers. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Egypt’s highest appeal courts suspended their work Wednesday to protest presidential decrees that gave the country’s Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi nearly absolute powers, state television reported, deepening the turmoil roiling the country since the decrees were announced last week.


A widening dispute between the president and the nation’s judiciary is at the center of the uproar over a constitutional declaration placing Morsi above oversight of any kind, including by the courts. At least 200,000 protesters filled Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Tuesday to denounce the decrees and call on the president to rescind them.


Judges with the high and lower courts of appeal decided that they will not return to work until Morsi rescinds his decrees, according to state TV. Many of the country’s courts already had stopped functioning due to individual strikes.

The high court of appeal is led by Mohammed Mumtaz Metwali, who also chairs the Supreme Judiciary Council, which oversees the nation’s court system. Members of the council met Morsi on Monday to discuss his decrees.


A statement issued later by the presidential palace strongly suggested that the president’s explanation of the decrees satisfied the council, but the panel has not publicly commented on the issue.

A statement by the judges of the high appeals court, known as the Court of Cassation, described Morsi’s decrees as an “unprecedented” assault on the judiciary and its principles that “defies belief.” It said the decision to stop work at all its circuits was also unprecedented but justified by the “magnitude” of the crisis.


In another show of defiance, the Supreme Constitutional Court, the nation’s highest, rejected charges made by Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood that it is working to bring down his government.

The political turmoil was triggered Thursday when Morsi issued a constitutional declaration that placed him above oversight of any kind, including by the courts, and extended similar protection to parliament’s lower chamber and a 100-member panel drafting a new constitution.


Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood, which has emerged as the most powerful political movement since the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago, have accused the judiciary of being dominated by Mubarak-era appointees who are trying to undermine the new leader.

The constitutional court ruled in June to dissolve parliament’s lower chamber, which is dominated by Islamists, and was due to rule Sunday on the legality of the lower chamber and a 100-member panel drafting a new constitution.


A ruling, regardless of which way it goes, would constitute a direct challenge to Morsi, who took office in June as Egypt’s first freely elected president but has enraged pro-democracy activists who claim he is acting too much like the authoritarian leader he replaced.

The court also denounced Morsi’s claim that it was part of a “conspiracy” against him.


“The allegation that the (June) ruling was reached in complicity with others to bring down elected state institutions and consequently the state’s collapse ... is incorrect and untrue,” the constitutional court said in a statement read by its deputy chairman, Maher Sami, in a televised news conference.

“But what is most saddening for the court’s judges came when the president of the republic joined, in a painful and cruel surprise, the continuing attacks against the constitutional court,” it said, alluding to comments made by Morsi on Friday in which he said the June ruling was leaked ahead of its official announcement.
 

A strike by the appeals courts and the rare criticism of the president in the Supreme Constitutional Court’s statement came a day after Egyptians poured into Tahrir Square — the epicenter of last year’s anti-Mubarak uprising — to protest Morsi’s decrees, which also gave him unlimited powers to “protect” the nation.

Clashes between some protesters and police continued Wednesday off Tahrir, near the U.S. Embassy.


The liberal opposition has said it would not enter a dialogue with the president about the country’s latest political crisis before Morsi rescinded his decrees. Activists planned another massive rally on Friday.

Egyptian protesters chant slogans against President Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday. Egyptians gathered in the square Tuesday for a protest against Egypt's president in a significant test of whether the opposition can rally the street behind it in a confrontation aimed at forcing the Islamist leader to rescind decrees that granted him near absolute powers.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — More than 200,000 people thronged Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, protesting against Egypt’s Islamist president Tuesday in an opposition show of strength, as the standoff over Mohammed Morsi’s assertion of near absolute powers escalated into the biggest challenge yet to his and the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule.

The massive, flag-waving, chanting crowd in the iconic plaza rivaled the size of some of the large protests of last year’s uprising that drove autocrat Hosni Mubarak from office. The same chants used against Mubarak were now turned against Egypt’s first freely elected leader.

“The people want to bring down the regime,” and “erhal, erhal” — Arabic for “leave, leave,” rang across the square.

Protests in Tahrir and several other cities Tuesday were sparked by edicts issued by Morsi last week that effectively neutralized the judiciary, the last branch of government he does not control. But it turned into a broader outpouring of anger against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Opponents say have used election victories to monopolize power, squeeze out rivals, and dictate a new, Islamist constitution, while doing little to solve Egypt’s mounting economic and security woes.

Clashes broke out in several cities as Morsi opponents tried to attack offices of the Brotherhood. At least 100 people were injured when protesters and Brotherhood members protecting their office pelted each other with stones and firebombs in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla el-Kobra.

“Power has exposed the Brotherhood. We discovered their true face,” said Laila Salah, a housewife in the Tahrir protest who said she voted for Morsi in this summer’s presidential election. After Mubarak, she said, Egyptians would no longer consent to an autocrat.

“It’s like a wife whose husband was beating her and then she divorces him and becomes free,” she said. “If she remarries she’ll never accept another day of abuse.”

Gehad el-Haddad, a senior adviser to the Brotherhood and its political party, said Morsi would not back down on his edicts. “We are not rescinding the declaration,” he told The Associated Press.

That sets the stage for a drawn-out battle between the two sides that could throw the nation into greater turmoil. Protest organizers on a stage in the square called for another mass rally on Friday. If the Brotherhood responds with mass rallies of its own, as some of its leaders have hinted, it would raise the prospect of greater violence.

A tweet by the Brotherhood warned that if the opposition was able to bring out 200,000-300,000 “they should brace for millions in support” of Morsi.

Another flashpoint could come Sunday, when the constitutional court is due to rule on whether to dissolve the assembly writing the new constitution, which is dominated by the Brotherhood and Islamist allies. Morsi’s edicts explicitly banned the courts from disbanding the panel. If the court defies him and rules anyway, it would be a direct challenge that could spill over into the streets.

“Then we are in the face of the challenge between the supreme court and the presidency,” said Nasser Amin, head of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession. “We are about to enter a serious conflict” on both the legal and street level, he said.

Laila Familiar is the director of the Arabic Summer Institute for the Arabic Oversees Flagship Program.

Photo Credit: Julia Bunch | Daily Texan Staff

When Laura Chen goes to class in Alexandria, Egypt, she sees firsthand the aftermath of the Arab Spring, a two-year citizen-led revolution and battle for change in Egypt’s political leadership. Chen is one of the first UT students allowed to study abroad in Egypt since the revolution and the election of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

For the past two years, UT students have been somewhat restricted from studying abroad in Egypt because of the violence and changing political structure within the nation. Chen is a member of the Arabic Overseas Flagship Program, a national program led by UT and four other universities. The program aims to bring together students from across the nation to participate in an intensive year-long Arabic language and culture study program at Alexandria University. Fifty-four students in the program are currently studying there, 23 of whom go to UT.

The U.S. Embassy in Egypt urges U.S. citizens to monitor local news and plan activities accordingly, it said in a July 6 statement.

Chen said while studying in Egypt she has seen many major political events unfold, including the election of President Mohammed Morsi, which she said has brought hope to the people of Egypt.

“There was support for his win, but I would say it’s mostly responsive relief that the other candidate did not win,” Chen said, referring to former prime minister Ahmed Shafik. “I can’t say if it’s getting better or worse, but at least now, people feel it’s getting better.”

Since the Arab Spring began in 2010, UT students have faced restrictions on their studies in Egypt through increased safety measures, including a partial government ban which forced four UT students to return from Egypt in January 2011. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Egypt Saturday to meet with Morsi in an effort to strengthen U.S. and Egyptians relations, BBC News reported.

Laila Familiar, director of the Arabic Summer Institute for the Arabic Overseas Flagship Program, said she sees the recent election as the most important current event in Egyptian politics for multiple reasons.

“The result of the election, of course,” she said. “And the fact that Egypt has, for the first time in modern history, a president that has been elected by the people.”

Familiar said she is not sure how exactly the new president will affect Egyptian politics in the future, as there is currently tension between Morsi and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the governing body that took control of Egypt in 2011 when former dictator Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign.

“There is a lot of political tension, as everyone wants to do things their own way,” she said. “I think ultimately the SCAF has the real power, epecially since they dissolved the parliament. Egypt doesn’t have a parliament right now and without it, the president can’t really do anything.”

Jason Brownlee, associate professor of Middle Eastern studies, has written two books and more than a dozen articles on topics related to Egyptian politics. Brownlee has also been taking research-related trips to Egypt since 1995. Brownlee said no one is sure how long the new president will remain in power and what the effects of his rule will be.

“People should visit,” he said. “It’s safe.”

Muna Rehman, an Arabic language and literature senior who has been studying in Alexandria since September, said while the revolution has made her stay difficult at times, she is happy to have had the experience.

“It’s been great, and I’m actually sad to be leaving in a month,” she said.

Rehman said by keeping up with news from the U.S. Embassy, students in the program are able to avoid most public dangers, and no members have been injured.