World Bulletin/News Desk
Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's former justice minister believes the multiple criminal charges leveled at the former head of state -- and at the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood group from which he hails -- are "politically-motivated" and risk setting the country on a collision course.
"These trials will be catastrophic if current political conditions remain unchanged," former top judge Ahmed Mekki told the Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
"In third world countries, the judiciary is always a tool in the hands of the authorities to punish political opponents," Mekki asserted.
Since being ousted by the powerful army on July 3, Morsi -- the country's first freely elected president -- has been slapped with multiple charges, from inciting the killing of peaceful demonstrators to spying for Gaza-based Palestinian resistance group Hamas.
Almost all leading Muslim Brotherhood members, including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, have been rounded up and charged with inciting violence and instigating attacks on government buildings, public property and Coptic churches.
All of them have denied the allegations, accusing Egypt's new army-installed leadership of trying to silence their peaceful opposition to the military ouster of a democratically elected leader.
Mekki, once a leader of independent-minded judges who fought for judicial independence and directly challenged the autocratic Hosni Mubarak regime over blatant election rigging, says the charges against Morsi and most Brotherhood leaders are politically-motivated.
"I can't imagine how the president of Egypt could be accused of 'spying' for Hamas," Mekki said.
"Nor can I understand how a president would kill peaceful demonstrators outside the presidential palace [of which Morsi is accused] when there's a Republican Guard whose job it is to protect the palace," he added.
Having dealt directly with Morsi for several months as justice minister, Mekki says he was witness to much behind-the-scenes maneuvering.
He recalls that, when anti-Morsi protesters converged on the Ittihadiya presidential palace last December to protest Egypt's draft constitution, the Republican Guard "abducted" Morsi, moving him from the palace against his will.
"When the president objected, they told him they were responsible for his personal safety," Mekki recalled.
"This means," he added, "that the man [Morsi] had nothing to do with the killings that happened shortly afterward outside the palace."
Several people were killed outside the palace that day, many of them reportedly Morsi loyalists.
Local television channels showed images of protesters' tents being destroyed by Morsi supporters and alleged victims of "torture" at the hands of Islamist vigilantes.
The episode was portrayed by local media as an example of the Brotherhood's brutality and the absence of the rule of law.
Mekki, however, says that neither the army nor civilian police were effective during Morsi's single year in office.
According to the former judge, Ibrahim -- who has kept his post as interior minister until now -- had consistently told Morsi that the ministry lacked adequate personnel and equipment to restore domestic security.
"The defense minister [al-Sisi] also always stressed his desire to keep the army out of politics," Mekki recalled.
"Morsi was a president without any real authority," he added. "He did not have any [bona fide] power to implement his vision."
The former justice minister also finds accusations that Morsi "spied" for Hamas to be no less ludicrous.
"Hamas has always been on good terms with successive Egyptian administrations," he said. "So how could Morsi spy for them?"
Although Mekki has much to say about the course Egypt is taking now, as Egyptian society remains deeply polarized and the country sinks deeper into violence, he remains hopeful.
"But this depends on the ability of the two main poles [the military and the Muslim Brotherhood] to act wisely in the current political struggle," he said.
An old hand in Egypt's court system, Mekki, who had served in the judiciary for almost 50 years before serving as justice minister in Morsi's government for a few months, has always been respected -- by both friend and foe.
Although he was an outspoken critic of the Mubarak regime, spoke repeatedly about election fraud under Mubarak, and lobbied for judicial independence along with a group of other senior judges (including his brother Mahmoud Mekki, who served as Morsi's vice-president for several months), Mekki was even respected by Mubarak.
The last time Mekki met Mubarak was on January 16, 2011, only a few days before Egyptians rose up against the long-time ruler on January 25.
That was during a meeting of Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council, the body that monitors the nation's judiciary.
When he saw him, Mubarak hugged Mekki warmly.
"He discussed several things with me, but I was also surprised that, after the meeting, he was keen to shake hands with me very warmly," Mekki said.
Morsi, too, had been receptive to Mekki's criticisms.
When Morsi sacked Mubarak-era public prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, Mekki warned the president that the move was a miscalculation.
"I didn't do this because Mahmoud was an angel," Mekki said. "But I was sure that the move would draw enormous criticism."
By the same token, Mekki stresses that he does not defend Morsi and the Brotherhood because "they are angels," but because he opposes the idea of a "military coup" against a democratically elected president.
Still, he advises the Muslim Brotherhood to stay away from politics after having proved incapable of solving the nation's ills.
"That's why I'm asking them to leave the task of leading this country to other people more capable of doing it," Mekki said.
"At the same time, I say to the army that the Brotherhood is a real asset to Egyptian society - so you should do your best to protect it."Last Mod: 24 Eylül 2013, 13:21