The criminal indictment against former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi reveals close cooperation between the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, but some observers have expressed doubt as to the veracity of the allegations and cast them as an attempt by the military-controlled government to crush the Islamic movement.
The two-page indictment against Morsi and 32 other Muslim Brotherhood officials, including its General Guide Mohammed Badie and his deputy Khairat Shater, outlines an intricate Brotherhood scheme dating back to 2005 to take over Egypt and “terrorize” it. Morsi’s own criminal actions, the prosecution argues, began with his Hamas-assisted prison break in early 2011 and continued throughout his one-year term as president.
Even before civil unrest began in Egypt in January 25, 2011 — resulting in the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak less than three weeks later — the Muslim Brotherhood was already in touch with members of Hamas in Gaza and with Hezbollah in Lebanon, requesting advice on how to gain power, legal sources told independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm Thursday.
During that period, Brotherhood officials sent reports to Hamas and Hezbollah on the deployment of Egyptian forces in Sinai and on routes leading to the capital, Cairo.
Back in April, the Egyptian daily reported about recordings of five telephone conversations between Brotherhood official Khairat Shater and Hamas leaders during the early days of the Egyptian revolution, conversations Hamas denied having conducted.
Following Morsi’s ascent to power in June 2012, the Brotherhood allegedly tightened relations with its regional Islamist allies. The president’s advisers sent secret government reports to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, asking for advice on restructuring the Egyptian interior ministry, forming a “free army,” and planning to take control of the military in case anti-Morsi demonstrations get out of hand. Email correspondence and telephone conversations were recorded from within the presidential palace between the president’s aides and members of Islamist organizations, including Brotherhood leaders abroad.
One of Morsi’s advisers, Issam Haddad, was even allegedly spotted by Egyptian intelligence meeting with Iran’s chief of intelligence in a luxury hotel in Cairo. Haddad reportedly requested Iranian assistance in forming an “alternative intelligence agency” under the supervision of the international Muslim Brotherhood movement.
If he’s convicted, the penalty facing Morsi — currently being held at the Burj Al-Arab prison in Alexandria — could be death.
Meanwhile, the independent Egyptian daily Al-Watan released footage on Wednesday showing members of the Muslim Brotherhood entering Gaza through smuggling tunnels in March 2012. The young activists speak in the video of military training undertaken with Hamas’s Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza, as well as meetings with Hamas’s interior minister, Fathi Hammad. They are shown returning to Egypt through the tunnels in November 2012, singing Islamic songs.
But some observers have cast doubt on the allegations against the Brotherhood. Nathan Brown, an expert on Egypt at George Washington University, told Canada’s CBC news that the idea that Morsi was involved in espionage was “a very strange one.”
“As long as the treatment of the Brotherhood leadership is treated as a security matter rather than a political matter, Egypt’s political future will remain shaky,” Brown said.
Abdel Bari Atwan, the former editor of pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, ridiculed the notion of a serving Egyptian president “colluding” with small Islamic organizations abroad.
“I beg of you: Respect the intelligence of your people before our own,” Atwan appealed to Egyptian authorities in an op-ed published online Wednesday.
“We do not know when [the Brotherhood] colluded with ‘the empire of Hamas,’ and whether this collusion took place after president Morsi won the elections which everyone agreed were fair… does it make sense for a president to conspire to undermine the safety and stability of a country he rules?” wondered Atwan.
“Besides, what are the secrets concerning Egypt’s national security which were leaked to Hamas? The secret of Egypt’s nuclear bomb, for instance?… Hamas, which Egyptian media turned into a superpower no less dangerous than the Soviet Union or the United States at the peak of their power, could not cope with Gaza sinking under a few inches of water resulting from half a day of rainfall.”
Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas official, denied the allegations as well.
“This is nothing but another episode in a chain of distortion and animosity,” he wrote on his Facebook page Thursday. “Hamas is not an enemy to the Egyptian state and people, for meetings with it to be considered ‘collusion’ punishable under Egyptian law.”