Morsi politely 'asks' defiant prosecutor-general to stay on

Ahram Online, Mostafa Ali, Saturday 13 Oct 2012

Unable to convince Mahmoud to leave his post, presidency claims it was concerned angry public may target the Mubarak-appointed prosecutor-general over acquittals in Battle of Camel case

Prosecutor-general
Mohamed Morsi vs Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud (Photo: Ahram Online)

After a tense 48-hour standoff between President Mohamed Morsi and the judiciary, the head of the state has seemingly allowed Egypt's prosecutor general to remain in his post. 

On Thursday, Morsi announced that the prosecutor general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud would be leaving his post and heading to work as Egypt's ambassador to the Vatican.
 
Morsi's attempt to replace Mahmoud came amid growing fury with Wednesday's acquittal of the 25 defendants in the Battle of the Camel case, whose number included senior officials from the Mubarak regime. 
 
Moreover, public anger at the prosecutor-general has been brewing for months, with pro-revolution critics saying his office failed to aggressively pursue those accused of killing protesters in nearly two years of upheaval because it was part and parcel of a Mubarak mode of existence. 
 
Early news reports indicated that Mahmoud's departure had been all but sealed.
 
However, within hours of the announcement he would head to the tiny European enclave, Mahmoud released a statement denying he agreed to leave his office insisting that the president does not have a constitutional right to dismiss him.
 
Mahmoud, emboldened by the decision of many judges and prosecutors to publicly show him support, challenged Morsi by arriving at work on Saturday morning. 
 
Simultaneously, the president gave no indication that he would fight to stop the Mubarak-era prosecutor from carrying on in his post, and a compromise resolution seemed to be the only way left out of the short-lived crisis.
 
After a meeting was held on Saturday afternoon between the president and Mahmoud, who was accompanied by supporters from the High Council of the Judiciary, the two sides announced that "misunderstandings" had been cleared and an "understanding" between the two sides had been reached.
 
Vice-President Mahmoud Mekki told reporters during a press conference on Saturday evening following the high-level meeting that Morsi was at no time eager to dismiss Mahmoud.
 
"If the presidential office had intended to remove the public prosecutor it would have done so from day one of presidency," said Mekki.
 
Mekki claimed that Mahmoud had initially agreed in discussions with the presidency during the hours that immediately followed the announcement of the Battle of the Camel verdict to leave the post, and accepted an ambassadorship to the Vatican, but later changed his mind.
 
Mekki said that the president simply "suggested" to Mahmoud he leave his post out of concern for his safety given high levels of public anger at him.
 
The vice-president accused the media of misreporting on events and intentions, and accused reporters of manufacturing a controversy.
 
"The media falsely transmitted the news by claiming that prosecutor-general Mahmoud was sacked instead of saying that he was offered a post as Egypt's ambassador." 
 
Mekki also blamed some judges for contributing to the crisis that followed Morsi's announcement.
 
"There is strife now being fuelled by political forces who claim to advocate judicial independence but never supported it during Mubarak's time," said Mekki who is a one-time anti-Mubarak, pro-democracy judge.
 
Indeed, some in Egypt's judiciary publicly complained that Morsi's attempt to replace Mahmoud was outwith his presidential mandate, saying it violated judicial independence and the constitutional principle of the separation of powers.
 
Mekki went on to call the president's decision to approach Mahmoud about a change of career was "flawless", claiming that the "offer" the president made to Mahmoud did not break any laws.
 
Speaking on Saturday morning at the High Court where his office lies, Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud struck a more conciliatory tone towards the president, downplaying his earlier statements in which he accused the presidency of making direct and indirect threats to force him to step down.
 
Instead, Mahmoud told colleagues, who gave him a boisterous reception outside his office, that he holds no ill-feelings towards the Muslim Brotherhood, which the president hails from. He also expressed  his gratitude that the president had approved his request to remain in his position.
 
Meanwhile, Mekki  returned by night time Mahmoud's kind words, telling reporters that the president accepted the prosecutor-general's "desire" to stay on because "Morsi truly believes in the sanctity of the independence of the judiciary, the integrity of the state, and the importance of respecting the rule of the law."
 
By the end of the evening, the prosecutor-general bolstered the president's explanation for a "confusing" situation.
 
"It was miscommunication. We sensed that the president really wanted us to stay on. We appreciated that," he told reporters.
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