Mohammed Morsi, who was Egypt’s first President to be elected democratically, was overthrown from power yesterday, as a coup took over Cairo and the Egyptian army announced the naming of an interim government.
Morsi was informed at 7 p.m. local time last night that he was no longer Egypt’s President, after he had repeatedly refused to step down from power. Addressing the people of Egypt, coup leader General Abdulfattah al-Sisi announced on television that the military was fulfilling its “patriotic duty to the Egyptian masses” by forcing Morsi to relinquish his post. Gen. al-Sisi outlined future plans wherein the constitution would be suspended and an interim government formed while waiting for elections. The military leader named Adly Mansour, Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, as interim President. The coup was supported by Egypt’s religious leaders, namely Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University Ahmed al-Tayyeb and Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II.
Following the takeover, representatives of the former President’s Muslim Brotherhood told reporters that Morsi was being held by authorities; allegedly, the Egyptian police force was authorized to arrest some 300 Brotherhood members and officials. A report from state-controlled publication Al-Ahram stated that leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood Party were forbidden from fleeing Egypt, as airports were put on alert in case they would try to escape. The Al-Ahram article added that Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie was not allowed to cross the Libyan border.
Regarding Morsi’s whereabouts, Al-Ahram reported that as of last night, he had been moved to an unspecified location, as Brotherhood television stations were taken off the air or raided by the military. For his part, Morsi described his treatment as “illegal”, and asked that the people of Egypt do what they could to follow his example and “peacefully resist the coup.” He insisted that he is still the country’s president, and requested Egyptians to “defend his legitimacy” as its leader.
The events leading to Morsi’s removal as President started early in the day, as he pulled out from talks with Gen. al-Sisi as it became more probable that he would not remain in power. Soldiers started occupying Cairo at around dusk, as anti-Morsi Egyptians gave them their full support. In the northwest part of Cairo, the military erected barriers to prevent the pro-Morsi side from reaching the Republican Guard buildings; it was there where Morsi was believed to be under house arrest or in hiding.
International leaders were quite troubled by the developments, with the British government saying it did not approve of military involvement. According to Foreign Secretary William Hague, things are “dangerous” in Egypt, but it would still be best for “all sides to show restraint and avoid violence.” United States President Barack Obama, on the other hand, expressed “deep concern” in reference to the military takeover, though he did not refer to the event as a coup. The U.S. government is required by law to withhold aid to countries which use a military coup to depose its elected leader.