- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
CAIRO — On Wednesday, Egypt’s prosecutor’s office issued arrest warrants for Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide Mohammed Badie and nine other top officials in the movement. The officials are accused of inciting violence at the Republican Guard headquarters on Monday, when at least 51 people were killed, the vast majority of them supporters of former President Mohamed Morsy.
"It’s political," said Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad. "The state and all its institutions are complicit in coming out with this decision. The judiciary is complicit in obeying orders [from political powers]."
The arrest warrants are just the latest sign that a rapprochement with the Muslim Brotherhood is further away than ever before. As Egypt’s government moves quickly to put key figures in place, it seemed to be sending the message that the state would hold the Brotherhood responsible for any violence in this transitional period.
The new government is still in the process of being formed. A new prosecutor general, Hesham Barakat, was appointed shortly before the arrest warrants were issued. And on Tuesday, President Adly Mansour tapped Hazem el-Beblawi, an economist who previously served as finance minister, as prime minister. Beblawi has argued that the government must move quickly to cut Egypt’s bloated subsidy programs for energy and food — a position that, if he follows through on it, could galvanize protests against the new government.
Badie made a surprise appearance at the pro-Morsy sit-in outside the Rabaa al-Adaweya mosque on Friday, after widespread news reports that he had been arrested. "We will sacrifice ourselves, our souls and our blood, for President Morsy," he said in a fiery speech to the assembled crowd.
Such statements aside, it’s not clear if the Brotherhood leaders could have avoided these arrest warrants had the bloodshed at the Republican Guard headquarters not occurred. Prosecutors were already investigating the movement’s top officials for inciting violence at their Cairo headquarters, when Brotherhood members shot at protesters trying to storm the building. Egyptian security forces are also looking into top Brotherhood officials’ involvement in a 2011 prison break, and had slapped a travel ban on them while the investigation is underway.
The arrest warrants could also increase the pressure on the Brotherhood protest at Rabaa al-Adaweya. Top Brotherhood officials go in and out of the sit-in frequently, and should they stay there to evade arrest, it could exacerbate an already tense situation. Haddad said that his group had heard rumors of efforts to break up the sit-in, but that the Brotherhood had no choice but to wait and see what the security forces would do.
"We’re facing the consequences of our choices [to oppose the new government]," he said. "And they will have to face the consequences of their choices too, in subverting the revolution in this way."