Despite issuing a decree designating the Muslim Brotherhood “a terrorist organisation”, Dr. Hazem Al-Beblawi, the former Prime Minister, has described this decree as illegal saying: “This decision is a political and not a legal one, and that is why it was not published in the official gazette.”
In an interview given to “This Happens in Egypt” (TV) programme, which is shown on MBC Egypt Channel, Al-Beblawi added on Sunday that the Judiciary is the only authority that has the mandate to indict a person or an organisation with the charge of terrorism or anything else. He said: “Only the court has the right to say this because it is the one that has the right to make charges and issue verdicts.”
The former Prime Minister expected that his own decision designating the Muslim Brotherhood “a terrorist organisation” will not result in indicting anyone affiliated to it just on the mere basis of affiliation. He noted that the security situation has begun to improve markedly and that the Egyptian people now view with “disgust” acts of violence. He said: “The people now view this violence as an act of destruction for the country and not as a political activity. And this view is a great gain.”
Al-Beblawi refused to accept the description by some people of the law of regulating demonstrations as “the law of banning demonstrations”. He said: “I do not recognise that which some people call the law of banning demonstrations. Demonstrating is just like any other right that should be regulated. He added that when the country’s security is threatened, the taking of extraordinary measures becomes inevitable.
The former Prime Minister expressed objection to the penalties included in the law pertaining to the regulation of demonstrating describing them as “extreme” and said: “I object to these penalties and I wish to see them amended.”
The following is the transliteration of a segment published on Youtube from Al-Beblawi’s aforementioned TV interview:
Presenter: Do you feel some sort of dismay because of what has been reported recently? For example, two days ago, a politician speaking to one of the TV channels said: “Dr. Al-Beblawi cheated us because although he announced the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation this was implemented or published in the official gazette by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab”. Are you dismayed by this? That they said you fooled them?
Al-Beblawi: OK. What about now?
Presenter: Now what?
Al-Beblawi: I mean…First of all, there people who say things that have no essence. (The claim) that it was not published in the official gazette…No, I did ask, and it is there in reference to a decree made by the cabinet. It is considered a political statement. And it was published in the official gazette. So, what happened (next)? If the issue as about the difference between publishing it or not publishing it in the official gazette, so what happened?
Presenter: If it was published in the official gazette that would imply an enacted law or an enacted measure according to which verdicts can be made.
Al-Beblawi: No, not a law. And what does it mean to be enacted?
Presenter: I don’t know. You tell me. You are a lawyer I am not.
Al-Beblawi: Let me tell you something. This matter, in view of the legal situation in Egypt, this is a political stance and not a legal issue.
Presenter: So, this is a political stance and not a legal matter? Whether it is published in the official gazette or in other places?
Al-Beblawi: Because, first of all, had this been a legal (matter) the law must tell who has the jurisdiction. Is it the Prime Minister? Is it the Minister of Justice? Is it the Minister of Interior? Then, what are the criteria according to which this judgement is made? Is there a law that says so? Then, when such a decree is issued, what are the outcomes? Can you do anything other than referring it to the prosecution so as to base on it any charges of involvement in terrorism and then for the case to be referred to the court? So, what I am saying …
Presenter: Does that mean that this decree has no effect?
Al-Beblawi: It has a political effect because it is a political position.
Presenter: It is then a political position?
Al-Beblawi: (yes) a political position. What I would like to say is that (when it comes to) the legal position can you now pick up someone and send him to jail because he …
Presenter: Because he is affiliated with a terrorist organisation?
Presenter: I do not know! I am (only) asking?
Al-Beblawi: What does the law say? What was announced says the following: the Society (of the Muslim Brotherhood)…Let it…Even this matter, will have to be referred to the prosecution for a decision to be made. Or else, who will (decide to) imprison him? And will he imprison him for 3 years or for 7 years or for 12 years? Who will have a say over this if this person is imprisoned? Should the Interior Minister detain him or refer him to the court? If he is referred to the court, then …
Presenter: But is there not a crime called “belonging to a terrorist organisation”?
Al-Beblawi: Therefore, he would have to be referred and it is the court that should decide.
Presenter: Yes, but there is a crime called “belonging to a terrorist organisation”?
Al-Beblawi: Of course.
Presenter: And when your own government or the government of Engineer Mahlab says that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organisation?
Al-Beblawi: This is not sufficient.
Presenter: Why is it not sufficient? Not sufficient for charging someone with terrorism?
Al-Beblawi: Does that mean that when I, as a government, say that this is a terrorist you may then pick up anyone and refer him to the prosecution? He may then plead “no I’m not a (member of) terrorist organisation”. It is the court who should say so.
Presenter: The court is the one that says so?
Al-Beblawi: Who else?
Presenter: Despite the government’s decision?
Al-Beblawi: I think it is the court who can describe the crime. For example, if the government were to come to someone and say this is a murderer, it is the court who will say whether he is or not.
Presenter: In other words, whether this decision (to designate the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation) is made by Dr Al-Beblawi’s government or by the government of Engineer Mahlab, it is a political decision?
Al-Beblawi: It was made by our government as a political decision. I would like to tell you that in other countries, the matter is a different. In the America after 9/11 a special law was made that grants the Attorney General the right to designate an organisation as a terrorist group in accordance with specific criteria and provided it is not American.
Presenter: Is this the (terrorist) list they renew and re-issue every year and to which they added Ansar Bayt Al-Madis two days ago?
Al-Beblawi: Yes. But he cannot (do this) in the case of a group of Americans who form (together) a terrorist organisation. They, then, would have to refer them to the court. It only applies to …
Presenter: That is why they call it “a foreign terrorist organisation”?
Al-Beblawi: Yes, it would have to be non-American. As for the United Nations, when this was referred to it (it was decided that) the matter should be referred to the Security Council and the approval is made unanimously by all the (permanent) members. It would suffice (to drop it) for only one member to say no. So, there are issues. This is a legal matter. And they are making too big an uproar out of it.
Presenter: Do you deal normally with such an uproar?
Al-Beblawi: Yes. In fact, I did not hear that man talking but I read something about it in the newspaper, and that they are making out of …
Presenter: Yes, they have made a big problem out of it.
Al-Beblawi: Yes. I would be delighted for the problem to be resolved by now.
Presenter: So, what you are saying is that the matter does not depend on whether it is designated a terrorist organisation or not and whether this is published in the official gazette or not?
Al-Beblawi: If as a result many people are arrested and are given sentences, then is good and it would be a blessing.
Presenter: So, what you are saying is that let us meet after the sentences (are issued)?
Al-Beblawi: Let us see. Have they now said that it would made a big difference? Let us see.