CAIRO: Egypt’s interim president has defended the military’s ouster of his predecessor and said his government’s top priority was restoring security, as gunmen killed a police officer Wednesday in the country’s south.
Adly Mansour’s interview Tuesday with Egyptian state television, the first since his appointment, aired on the same day that a military tribunal issued verdicts against supporters of ousted President Mohammad Morsi and a court ordered channels sympathetic to the former regime off the air.
The wide-ranging interview seemed aimed at putting a civilian face on the military ouster of Morsi amid concerns that the country’s army was pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Mansour said Egypt was moving from “authoritarian rule to democratic rule” and added that the country’s top priorities were sticking to a military-backed road map for transition, restoring security and improving the economy.
The interim government is charging ahead with a transition plan, appointing a committee to review the constitution passed under Morsi. A new version is to be put to a popular referendum within two months, and if passed, it would open the way for presidential and parliamentary elections.
Mansour defended reinstating emergency laws in the meantime. The state of emergency grants authorities sweeping powers to make arrests.
“Acts of terrorism and an aggressive war by extremists led us to this decision,” he said.
He said, without elaborating, that there was a plan aimed at “burning Egypt.” State media has frequently accused Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group and their supporters of carrying out acts of terrorism and attacking police stations, churches and government buildings.
Morsi’s backers say the new leaders are relying on security forces and a corrupt system to go after the group to avoid finding a political solution or compromises to the crisis.
Mansour said that his government would not hold reconciliation talks with any individuals who had incited or taken part in acts of violence.
Egypt’s state MENA news agency Wednesday said a police officer was killed and three conscripts wounded when gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint in a village in the southern Aswan governorate.
He said the fate of the Brotherhood was now in the hands of the judiciary, which is reviewing a case calling for the group’s dissolution on the grounds it allegedly operated outside the boundaries of the law. The country’s interim prime minister recently said the Brotherhood should be allowed to have a political party and be monitored rather than be forced underground as it had been for more than 80 years.
In the past several weeks, many leaders and members of the Brotherhood have been detained and face prosecution on charges ranging from inciting violence to possession of weapons and murder. Morsi himself has been held in an undisclosed location since his July 3 ouster. He has been referred to trial for inciting the murder of his opponents last year, though no date has been set.
Despite the fierce crackdown against Morsi’s backers and those critical of his ouster, thousands protested across the country Tuesday in scattered marches and raised the ex-president’s picture.
Meanwhile, a court Tuesday ordered Al-Jazeera’s local affiliate and three other stations to stop broadcasting. The case against Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr has been mounting for weeks. The station has aired videos of wanted Brotherhood figures calling for more protests and focused extensive coverage on the group’s rallies.
The court said in its ruling that the stations “hurt national security,” as well as “broadcast lies to the Egyptian people, defamed the armed forces, violated the professional code of conduct, and incited foreign countries against Egypt,” according to MENA.
The sudden ouster of Morsi after several days of huge protests has also rattled U.S.- Egypt relations. The decision by Egypt’s new leaders to authorize force to clear out two large Brotherhood-led protest encampments in the capital further strained relations, prompting U.S. President Barack Obama to call for a review of relations.
“We wait to see the results of the review of relations that President Obama called for,” Mansour said.
He spoke sharply about Turkish leaders, who have strongly criticized Morsi’s removal from power. Ties have been strained and both countries have pulled out their ambassadors.
“We would have hoped that the Turkish government sees its real interests are with Egypt and its people and not with the leaders of a certain group that made ties with Turkish leaders based on personal interests based on economic incentives,” Mansour said.
Although some U.S. senators and European leaders have called it a coup, Mansour insisted it was the will of people who voted for Morsi to remove him from power for failing to govern democratically.
“This is real democracy,” he said.
Also Wednesday, Egypt’s Interior Minister removed the head of the country’s prison authority amid reports he facilitated meetings between detained Islamists, an official said.
The decision was part of a limited reshuffle in the ministry in charge of security, which also saw security and investigative chiefs removed in the southern governorate of Minya, where unrest is rife and mobs have attacked government buildings and churches.
A security official said Minister Mohammad Ibrahim removed Mostafa Baz after reports emerged he had overlooked meetings in jail between Muslim Brotherhood leaders and other Islamists and allowed them to communicate outside the prisons.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media. Baz had been in the post since June 10.
Explaining his decision, Ibrahim told Egypt’s state news agency the reshuffle was necessary to restore state security.
Asked about Baz, Ibrahim said: “Prisons are one of the most important police sectors and require strong leadership. The removal was to correct the path and appoint a more qualified leadership.”