CAIRO: After Egypt’s Islamist president vowed action against opponents, the nation’s top prosecutor on Monday issued arrest warrants against five prominent activists over clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and protesters.
The warrants heightened the latest in a series of crises plaguing this nation of some 90 million since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.
Rights activists and the opposition warned the warrants could mark the opening of an intimidation campaign against their ranks by President Mohammed Morsi and the Brotherhood, through the prosecutor. They accused the prosecutor — handpicked by Morsi late last year — saying he has ignored Morsi supporters’ violence against protesters and moved quickly against opposition figures.
“We are extremely worried,” said Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front. “We feel threatened and we expect the worst,” he said.
Egypt’s ongoing tug of war pits Morsi, a Brotherhood veteran, and his Islamist allies in one camp against a mostly secular and liberal opposition backed by moderate Muslims, minority Christians and a large segment of women in the other.
The opposition charges that Morsi and the Brotherhood have failed in tackling any of the nation’s most pressing problems and are trying to monopolize power, renegading on promises of inclusiveness. Morsi blames the country’s woes on nearly three decades of corruption under his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, and accuses the opposition of stoking unrest for political gain.
Friday’s clashes outside the Brotherhood’s headquarters were the worst in more than three months between the Brotherhood and protesters.
The arrest warrants Monday were issued against five activists who were at the forefront of the 2011 uprising against Mubarak and a subsequent campaign against the army generals who succeeded him and ruled for nearly 17 months.
They include Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a prominent blogger detained for two months in 2011 over allegations he attacked soldiers carrying out a bloody crackdown on protesters. He was released without charges in that case.
Abdel-Fattah posted a statement on his Facebook account saying he would surrender to the prosecutor’s office today.
“I am not afraid of the prisons of a tyrannical state and I will not accept to turn from a person unfairly accused of fabricated charges into a fugitive from justice,” he wrote.
Another of the five, Ahmed Douma, was beaten by Brotherhood supporters, his face left bleeding, in the initial incident that sparked Friday’s protest.
Karim el-Shaer is also a blogger and a veteran pro-democracy campaigner. Two others — Hazem Abdel-Aziz and Ahmed Ghoneimi — are prominent members of the opposition al-Dustor Party, led by Nobel peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.