By Khaled Okasha
The crime that took place in front of and inside the Itihadiya Palace, a few months after Mohamed Morsi’s rule, raised a sort of panic and early concern for a wide number of Egyptians. Several court rulings have recently been issued against the murder of a group of peaceful protesters, as well as seriously injuring others. However, the deep concern that has started to take shape since that moment was over more than the crime of murder and injury. More precisely, we mean here the crime scene and the details in which the presidential palace was involved in.
The beginning of these details is that Morsi started his term by issuing a “constitutional declaration” in order to allow him to take full control over the legislative sphere, as well as making his decisions immune to any legal supervision or authority.
Issuing this constitutional decision was the spark that pushed the opposition movement into the streets and quickly brought to mind the characteristics of a dictatorial ruler who controls all authorities and is not subject to any kind of accountability or supervision. The public and political opposition expressed itself through separate events, until 4 December 2012, when a peaceful demonstration was organised in front of Itihadiya Palace demanding the revocation of the constitutional declaration. The numbers were estimated at the tens of thousands at the least. The police dealt with these thousands in a very balanced way and did not use any violence. At the end of the day, these crowds left the place, and no more than 50 people remained, to organise a symbolic sit-in at the wall of the palace until their demand was met.
At that time, inside the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau, it was agreed to break up this symbolic sit-in, not through security institutions, but through armed groups assigned by leaders of the Brotherhood. This disastrous decision was the direct cause of the death of 10 victims, in addition to injuring tens of others. The groups of the Brotherhood were dealing with the protestors with excessive aggression. They randomly used firearms, which contributed to the numbers of victims. Unfortunately for the Brotherhood, different media were at the scene, expecting to cover peaceful protest like the day before.
What happened instead was a massacre around, and inside the Presidential Palace. The journalists filmed and documented many scenes, which have since been used as evidence against the Brotherhood. Many of Morsi’s aides appeared interrogating and assaulting victims. Eyewitnesses said that they were taken inside the presidential palace, where there was a room used to detain them, and where many said that a lot of detainees were excessively physically assaulted. This tragic scene was accompanied by a media incitement campaign by leaders in the Brotherhood, like Wagdy Ghoneim and Mohamed El-Beltagy.
What revealed the darkest side of that crime committed by the presidential institution on the morning of the next day was when then-chief of staff Refaa El-Tahtawi contacted the office of the Chief Prosecutor, asking him to come to the palace. There, adviser Mustafa Khater was asked to do something that he could not do because of his ethical and legal principles.
There, he was one of many people locked in one of the rooms in the palace. They had clear marks of beating and torture, and he was asked to charge them for receiving money from oppositional politicians to create riots.
The prosecutor did not respond to the outrageous request, and was then subjected to pressure by the Prosecutor General to meet the presidency’s demands, especially as the president announced in a televised speech that accusations were directed towards the detainees for receiving money to attack the Itihadyia Palace and implementing a scheme led by former figures of the National Democratic Party aiming to bring down the Brotherhood’s rule.
The accusations proved to be untrue, and the worst part was that no investigations, nor legal accusations were made against a single one of the detained injured individuals. Hours later, the chief prosecutor resigned with a note that contained all the violations that occurred, starting from the illegal detention of a number of citizens who were kidnapped from the street, detained in the palace and assaulted with the knowledge of the presidential staff, to the pressures he was personally subjected to in order to fabricate the case according to what the president announced.
This resignation note found its way to press; it was exposed to the public opinion with facts, names, and the official positions of those who committed these crimes in front of and inside the presidential palace. The public, which was deeply hurt by the death of the 10 victims, became terrified for its homeland, where the rights of its citizens are completely lost.
The outcome of this case was the first bullet against the Muslim Brotherhood. It was the main reason that led to the government’s failure, collapsing only seven months after this crime. For the people, the Brotherhood crossed all red lines and neglected the rights of its citizens simply to remain in power. Moreover, people believed that the Brotherhood could go further, using armed militias, even if they had to ignore all public institutions, for the sake of reaching the Itihadiya Palace to rule.
Khaled Okasha is security analyst and Director of the National Center for Security Studies