Essam El-Erian, of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (Photo: Reuters)
In a shock move, Muslim Brotherhood veteran Essam El-Erian submits his resignation from President Mohamed Morsi's presidential advisory team on Sunday as well as his position as deputy of the Freedom and Justice Party.
FJP official spokesperson Ahmed Sobie said that El-Erian resigned to avoid becoming a liability for the party and the president after being sued for defamation. He accused TV personality Jihan Mansour of taking money to insult the Brotherhood on her programme and according to Sobie El-Erian resigned because he did not want news of the investigation with him to stain the image of the presidency.
"We don’t want people to say: 'look, the president’s advisor is being investigated by the prosecutor-general,'" Sobie explained.
He also announced his resignation after being defeated in the party's presidential elections to rival Saad El-Katatni on Friday. According to party bylaws, the new party president has the authority to hire new deputies.
El-Katatni, however, rejected El-Erian's resignation and insists that El-Erian remain deputy of the party.
El-Erian will be questioned over the Mansour case at noon on Sunday in the Cairo Appeals Prosecution.
"My wife has informed me that I have been subpoenaed for questioning," El-Erian wrote on Twitter. "I asked the Minister of Justice to bring a judge to question me..."
On Saturday evening, El-Erian announced on his official Twitter account that he will remain in the party’s High Committee and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shura Council until "we free the nation and reform governorance with the Islamic law."
The crisis with Mansour began while she was airing her show Sabahak Ya Masr (Egypt's Morning) on the Dream TV channel after the "Friday of Accountability" clashes when Brotherhood members allegedly attacked protesters congregating in Tahrir Square.
Mansour started her programme with a phone interview with activist Karima El-Hefnawy, who supported criticism of the Brotherhood and said that all of Egypt’s political forces are dismayed with their attacks on protesters.
"We demand an official apology from the FJP," El-Hefnawy said. "We demand the dismantling of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is illegally founded and the confiscation of their funds and headquarters. This Brotherhood grew illegally and its funding is obscure, but we all know that it comes from Gulf countries."
Shortly, after El-Hefnawy ended the phone call, El-Erian called the programme to respond to the accusations. He denied that members of the FJP attacked the protesters and that unknown thugs were behind the clashes. He also asked all political forces to take responsibility for the Friday attacks.
"They burned three of our buses and there were thugs," El-Erian said. "We did not accuse any of the politicians. At least 70 of our members were injured. We are currently gathering evidence of these attacks."
When Mansour said that many politicians are filing complaints not only against the FJP but against him personally, a furious El-Erian shot back that he will not be intimidated.
"I am ready for any investigation. I'm used to it: I've been going through trials my entire life. Don’t let anyone think that they can threaten me. No, I have spent eight years and a half in jail and I am ready to spend more like them for Egypt's freedom."
El-Erian then complained that Mansour was refusing to allow him to speak and kept interrupting him.
"You don’t want to listen to me. This is not a dialogue," El-Erian fumed. "You are trying to force your opinion on me…I don’t want to ask you how much money you take to say the things you are saying."
Following the accusations that she is being paid to attack the Brotherhood, Mansour announced that she would take legal measures against El-Erian.
"He reprimanded me, live on air," Mansour had said. "He should have spoken to me in a better manner, especially since I spoke to him in a professional manner."
El-Erian is one of the Brotherhood's top leaders. He has also been acting chairman of the FJP since Mohamed Morsi stepped down from that post. El-Erian ran for president of the FJP but lost on Friday when rival Saad El-Katatni won with 67 per cent of the votes.