Deputy Chairman of parliament’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee Ahmed Helmi Al-Sherif announced this week that a law was currently being drafted to rid government ministries and state institutions of elements affiliated to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
“I decided to take the step of drafting this law myself and to gather as much support for it among MPs as possible, as recent reports show that government ministries and state institutions still have Brotherhood elements and sympathisers who cause unrest and trouble,” Al-Sherif said, adding that “some of these act as sleeper cells while others declare open hostile positions against the ruling regime.”
Al-Sherif, an influential MP who was responsible for drafting a number of constitutional amendments passed by parliament in April, said in an official statement on 29 June that the Brotherhood sleeper cells pose a big danger to internal stability.
“We should take preventive action. When the people removed the Muslim Brotherhood regime from office in 2013, they thought that security forces had arrested most of its sleeper cells which were forced to show up to rally support for the group during sit-ins at Cairo and Giza squares in the summer of 2013,” Al-Sherif said.
However, Al-Sherif continued, “whenever some Brotherhood-related incidents — such as the death of (former ousted president) Mohamed Morsi on 17 June — take place, we discover that the sleeper cells are still there, occupying posts in government ministries and state institutions and trying their best to spread malicious rumours and causing unrest. Others hold interviews with TV channels broadcasting from Turkey and Qatar, giving out false statements about the economy and internal conditions,” Al-Sherif added.
Yehia Kidwani, a member of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, said Al-Sherif’s draft law comes on the eve of Egypt celebrating the sixth anniversary of the anti-Muslim Brotherhood 30 June Revolution on Sunday.
“Such a law and others should on this occasion ring alarm bells on the danger of the Muslim Brotherhood and its repeated attempts to use sleeper cells in state institutions to spread malice and undermine stability,” Kidwani said, adding that he hopes Al-Sherif’s draft law will extend to state employees who espouse extremist thoughts, radical ideologies and jihadist ideas.
“Some of these see government circles and state institutions as fertile ground for spreading the venomous views of certain radical groups and recruiting members,” said Kidwani.
In a statement on the anniversary of the 30 June uprising, the Muslim Brotherhood said on Saturday that it had decided to take a new realistic approach towards what it called “the new realities in Egypt”.
“After the death of president Morsi, we made an internal revision in order to review mistakes we had made either while we were in a state of revolution or we were in power,” said the statement, adding that “we also reviewed the mistakes which our allies had made during the time of the revolution.”
“From now on,” the statement said, “the group will make a distinction between general political action on the one hand, and competition against other political forces for power on the other.
“We are no longer interested in party-based political action, and in the next period we will concentrate mainly on our performance in Egypt’s general political life,” said the statement, adding that “from this new standpoint, we will allow Muslim Brotherhood members to join political life in Egypt in terms of cooperating with political parties and movements which share our views on the renaissance of our nation.”
Kidwani told reporters that the statement was deceptive because it showed the Brotherhood as it has always been — stubborn, and arrogant.
“They said they admit they had made mistakes but they did not say what these mistakes were,” said Kidwani, adding that “the statement shows that after they had lost hope that violence and terrorism would bring them back to power, they decided to adopt a new strategy: to allow their elements to cooperate with what they call ‘existing political parties which share their views’. As far as I know, most, if not all, political parties and movements in Egypt reject any kind of cooperation with the group,” he added.
Al-Sherif said some Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cells are affiliated with so-called civil society organisations. “These kinds of sleeper cells introduce themselves as independent civil political forces, but in fact they are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, receiving orders and money from its fugitive leaders living in Turkey and Qatar to spread unrest here.”
On 25 June, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement that it had foiled a plot orchestrated by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with other elements, attempting to disrupt the country’s national economy.
According to the statement, the scheme focused mainly on building paths of illegal cash flows from abroad. This is in keeping with the Brotherhood, fugitive forces, and other enemies of the state financing acts of violence and rebellions against state institutions.
Al-Sherif said his proposed draft was an amendment of the Civil Service Law, and aims to allow “specialised directorates” to remove Brotherhood elements because of their danger.
“The draft law is also in line with the constitution [Article 237] which makes it binding on the state to fight terrorism in its different forms, and track its sources of funding because it is a threat to the homeland and citizens while guaranteeing the respect of rights and public liberties,” Al-Sherif said, adding that the amendment also aims to state that if convicted, Brotherhood elements should also be stripped of political rights.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Cracking down on sleeper cells