Security concerns as Egypt fears possible Brotherhood violence after Morsi’s death
CAIRO - The death of Muhammad Morsi, Egypt’s Islamist president who was deposed in July 2013, ends an important chapter in the struggle between Egyptian authorities and the Muslim Brotherhood but may include a massive wave of violence, analysts said.
“Everybody expects militias affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood to stage attacks in the coming days,” said Khaled Okasha, a member of the Supreme Anti-Terrorism Council, an advisory body to the Egyptian presidency. “This is why the security establishment is taking very serious measures to prevent possible attacks.”
Morsi died June 17 in a courtroom where he was on trial, along with 23 other Brotherhood members, on charges of espionage for the Palestinian movement Hamas.
At the end of the day’s court session, Morsi, 68, reportedly dropped to the floor after losing consciousness. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead of a heart attack.
Morsi , who won the first presidential elections in Egypt after the 2011 revolution and was ousted in July 2013 after a year in office, was on trial for a range of charges, including premeditated killing, espionage, breaking out of his jail cell in 2011 and joining an outlawed movement. He was also accused of spying for Qatar and giving classified information to Doha.
He had complained several times of improper health care in prison, although authorities said they provided him with necessary care.
News of Morsi’s death fuelled anger in the Muslim Brotherhood, most of whose leaders who are not in Egyptian jails are either in Qatar or Turkey. Some of them called for retaliation, accusing Egyptian prison authorities of causing Morsi’s death by denying him medical attention.
Analysts said they expect the Brotherhood to give the go-ahead for its affiliated militias to stage attacks. Egyptian security agencies raised the terror alert level and tightened security around important state institutions, churches and hotels.
Security analysts said they expect the branch of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Sinai to increase attacks, citing links between ISIS and the Brotherhood, which was labelled a terrorist organisation by Egyptian authorities in late 2014.
Among his backers, Morsi is viewed as a martyr and Islamist hero. However, most Egyptians are likely to remember him for polarising Egyptian society, giving the office of the Brotherhood supreme leader influence over the presidency, opening battle fronts and encouraging the Muslim Brotherhood to antagonise Egyptian society by clinging to power when the people rose up against him.
“He will also be remembered for being the man who destroyed the Brotherhood as an organisation and increased its enemies everywhere in Egypt,” said Muneer Adeeb, a specialist in Islamist movements.
In his last address as president on July 3, 2013, Morsi asked backers and opponents who were on the streets then not to fight each other. He called on Egyptians to defend his constitutional legitimacy, which set off a confrontation between Brotherhood members and state authorities. Morsi’s backers burned police stations, set dozens of churches on fire and tried to avenge his ousting by killing policemen across Egypt.
Morsi’s death ended Brotherhood calls for the return of constitutional legitimacy, which for it meant return to power. Now, the Brotherhood and its international organisation must find a new cause behind which to rally their members and justify open war against Egypt.
This is why there are expectations that Morsi’s death will effect a dramatic transformation in the nature of the conflict between the Brotherhood and Egyptian officials.
This transformation will most likely include violence and Brotherhood attempts to use Morsi’s death to destabilise Egypt, turn the international community against Cairo and win sympathy and more supporters.
Some international organisations have called for investigations into Morsi’s death and his prison conditions.
“The movement will use this incident in moving ahead with its claim that it is a victim of the brutal oppression of the current authorities in Egypt,” said Sameh Eid, another specialist in Islamist movements. “This victimhood concept is a lifeline for this movement, one it uses to justify its presence and its violence and draw in more recruits.”