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Egypt's presidency vs. judiciary, intelligence: A new faceoff

Embattled presidency now faces two-front battle against both judiciary and – according to Muslim Brotherhood claims – Egypt's intelligence apparatus

Dina Ezzat , Wednesday 27 Mar 2013
Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud
Former Egyptian Prosecutor General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud speaks to hundreds of supporters, judges, lawyers and media in a downtown (Photo: AP)
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President Mohamed Morsi is unlikely to bow to a recent court ruling overturning his appointment of Talaat Abdullah, who replaced the Mubarak-appointed Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud as Egypt's prosecutor-general last fall, according to sources from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).

"Abdullah's appointment was done via constitutional decree; it was a sovereign act by the head of the executive and therefore cannot be reversed by court ruling," said one leading FJP/Brotherhood figure. His comments echoed earlier assertions by Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud.

The return of former prosecutor-general Mahmoud is "not going to happen," according to several government and FJP/Brotherhood sources.

According to judiciary sources, meanwhile, "a move" is now being considered among certain judicial circles, members of which had spearheaded the opposition last fall against Abdullah's appointment. The president, along with the Muslim Brotherhood from which he hails, accuses large swathes of Egypt's judiciary of having sympathies with the ousted Mubarak regime and working against his administration.

A suspension of judiciary work and mass sit-ins, the same sources say, are some of the measures currently being considered as possible responses to the presidency's "expected" resistance to the latest court ruling.

According to one source, there is "a potential face-saving exit" for all parties: namely, the president could request that Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council – the country's highest legal authority – consider the appointment of a new prosecutor-general, neither Abdullah nor Mahmoud.

It remains unclear, however, whether the presidency would be open to such a proposal, which has been tabled by certain judicial figures. Morsi, say some observers, may be tempted to adopt the recommendation in hopes of containing his months-long standoff with the judiciary.

An intelligence-led coup?

Sources close to Morsi, meanwhile, say that the president "faces a coup attempt partially orchestrated and executed by the intelligence apparatus."

In a recent television interview, Morsi himself voiced concern about what he described as "certain loopholes within the intelligence apparatus."

Morsi's statement followed assertions by FJP leader Mohamed El-Beltagi that "an intelligence officer" had been "apprehended" distributing money and weapons to thugs hired to attack Morsi supporters.

This week, Abul-Ela Madi, leader of the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood) made similar statements, alleging the existence of a wide-ranging conspiracy against Morsi from within the ranks of Egyptian intelligence.

Intelligence sources told Ahram Online that Madi's statement had prompted widespread anger among Egypt's most influential security bodies. "This is a very disturbing statement; people are really angry," said one intelligence general.

The lack of support for Morsi within Egypt's intelligence apparatus was reportedly reflected in unspoken sympathy that some intelligence quarters had demonstrated individually to Shafiq, who lost to Morsi in Egypt's first-ever free presidential elections last summer.  

Since Morsi's assumption of the top job last year, however, Egyptian intelligence has demonstrated a willingness – at least in public –to work with the presidency.

According to Brotherhood and intelligence sources alike, however, Morsi does not enjoy anything even approaching the loyalty shown by the intelligence services to the ousted Mubarak regime.

A lack of chemistry is one thing, however, while outright confrontation and public accusations are another – especially within the context of reportedly tense relations between the presidency on one hand and the army and judiciary on the other, along with the confused relations between presidency and police.

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