CAIRO — The chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court was sworn in Thursday as the nation’s interim president, taking over hours after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, while the army launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails.
Egyptian prosecutors ordered the arrest of the Brotherhood’s leader, Mohammed Badie, and his powerful deputy Khairat el-Shater for the killing of eight protesters in clashes outside the group’s Cairo headquarters this week, according to the official news agency reported.
Morsi, who a year ago became Egypt’s first freely elected president, has been under house arrest at an undisclosed location since the generals pushed him out Wednesday in what his supporters have decried as a military coup. At least a dozen of his advisers and aides are also under house arrest.
Badie and el-Shater were widely believed by the oppositions to be the real power in Egypt during Morsi’s tenure. As of Wednesday night, Badie was last known to be holed up at a tourist resort on the Mediterranean coast near the Libyan border, with security forces surrounding the building. But it was not immediately clear if he was still there.
Authorities have also issued a wanted list for more than 200 Brotherhood members and leaders of other Islamist groups. The leader of the Brotherhood’s political arm — Freedom and Justice Party — and another of Badie’s deputies have been detained.
The arrests and warrants against Brotherhood leaders signal a crackdown by the military against Islamists who have dominated the political scene in Egypt since the ouster in 2011 of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
The Brotherhood’s television station, Misr 25, has been taken off the air along with several TV networks run by Islamists. Morsi’s critics have long accused the stations of sowing divisions among Egyptians and inciting against secularists, liberals, Christians and Shiite Muslims with their hard-line rhetoric.
Morsi’s successor, judge Adly Mansour, took the oath of office at the Nile-side Constitutional Court in a ceremony broadcast live on state television. According to military decree, Mansour will serve as Egypt’s interim leader until a new president is elected. A date for that vote has yet to be set.
Dressed in a dark blue suit and a sky blue tie, Mansour used his first remarks as interim leader to praise the massive street demonstrations that led to Morsi’s ouster. He hailed the youth behind the protests that began on June 30 and brought out millions around the country.
June 30 “corrected the path of the glorious revolution that took place on Jan. 25,” he said, referring to the revolt against autocrat Hosni Mubarak that began Jan. 25, 2011 and led to his ouster 18 days later.
“The most glorious thing about June 30 is that it brought together everyone without discrimination or division,” he said. “I offer my greetings to the revolutionary people of Egypt.”
“I look forward to parliamentary and presidential elections held with the genuine and authentic will of the people,” Mansour said. “The youth had the initiative and the noblest thing about this glorious event is that it was an expression of the nation’s conscience and an embodiment of its hopes and ambitions. It was never a movement seeking to realize special demands or personal interests.”
The revolution, he said, must continue, so “we stop producing tyrants.”
Pushing aside Morsi, army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi announced Wednesday in a televised speech that the military had suspended the Islamist-drafted constitution, and that a civilian Cabinet of technocrat would run the country until new presidential elections are held. No date has been given.
Millions of anti-Morsi protesters around the country erupted in celebrations after the televised announcement by the army chief on Wednesday evening. Fireworks burst over crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where men and women danced, shouting, “God is great” and “Long live Egypt.”
That fact that Egypt’s interim president comes from the Constitutional Court adds a symbolic sting to Morsi’s ouster.
The Islamist leader and his Muslim Brotherhood backers had repeatedly clashed with the judiciary, particularly the constitutional court, while in power, accusing the judges of being loyalists of former autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a 2011 uprising, and saying they seek to undermine Egypt’s shift to democratic rule.
The judges, meanwhile, had repeatedly challenged the Brotherhood’s policies and what many in Egypt considered the group’s march to power. The Constitutional Court dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament in June last year, saying it was illegally elected. It rejected a Morsi decree to reinstate the chamber.
Even with an interim leader now in place, Egypt remains on an uncertain course following Morsi’s ouster, and the possibility of further confrontation still looms. Beyond the fears over violence, some protesters are concerned whether an army-installed administration can lead to real democracy.