The MB had threatened that Ramadan would be a bloody month during which terrorist operations would see huge escalation. Their threat materialised into a number of bombings inside Egypt and attacks against the military in Sinai. But perhaps the most painful for Egyptians was the assassination of Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat. Yet Egypt is…
The assassination of Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat whose convoy was bombed on Monday 29 June shook Egypt with grief. The assassination came one day before the second anniversary of the Egyptian millions-strong revolution on 30 June 2013 which led to the overthrow of the Islamist regime of the Muslim Brother president Muhammad Mursi on 3 July. The MB had threatened that the anniversary would be marked with assassinations, violence, and terrorism. Despite heightened security measures, Barakat was the first victim to fall to their hands.
Prosecutor Barakat was sworn in as Egypt’s top prosecutor in July 2013. He was targeted by the Islamist MBs for having prosecuted many of them on charges of terrorism, espionage, and violent acts against Egyptian institutions and against churches. Egyptian courts have handed down preliminary death sentences to hundreds of MBs, including Mr Mursi. Whereas the West has accused the sentences of being politicised, the Egyptian judiciary is independent of the government and military.
Prosecutor Barakat was given a military funeral on Tuesday at a mosque in the eastern Cairo satellite town of al-Tagammu al-Khames. President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi lead the procession of mourners which included senior officials, religious and public figures, and members of Mr Barakat’s family. Representing Pope Tawadros II were Anba Marcos, Bishop of Shubral-Kheima; Anba Danial of Maadi; and Anba Theodosius of mid-Giza who offered their condolences at the hall in the mosque. Military helicopters were sighted escorting the funeral until the body was interred.
President Sisi offered his condolences to the Barakat family and the Egyptian people, and condemned the heinous act of terrorism that assassinated Mr Barakat. “The war against terrorism,” he said, “is a long hard one, but the terrorists will never be allowed to get away with their crimes.” He said that the terrorist threat in Egypt demanded urgent legal reforms. “Our hands are tied,” he said, “because of the current laws. We can no longer wait some five or ten years to see justice take its course against persons who kill us.” He said that the coming days should see legal reforms that would allow quicker justice against terrorists. In reply to a question of whether any death sentences would be implemented, the President said: “A death sentence will be issued, a death sentence will be implemented. A life sentence will be issued, a life sentence will be implemented.”
The President stressed that the Egyptian people will not give in to terrorism, but should stand as one man against the terrorists. “We are not shaken, we are not panicky, we are not defeated,” he said. “We are willing to fall for Egypt to stand high.”
Celebration called off
The 65-year-old Mr Barakat died of wounds sustained in a bomb attack on his convoy some 200 metres away from his home in Cairo’s eastern district of Heliopolis. According to a Health Ministry spokesman, he suffered ruptures to the nose and left shoulder, and internal bleeding in the lungs and stomach. He was moved to al-Nuzha hospital in Heliopolis, where he underwent surgery but did not survive.
One civilian died and eight persons including two drivers and five policemen were injured in the bombing.
The presidency issued a statement announcing the death of Mr Barakat and offering sincere condolences to his family, friends, and the Egyptian people. “Egypt has today lost a figure of the judiciary who always displayed noble character, values, dedication, perseverance, and patriotism. The deceased, who died at the hands of vicious terrorists, will always remain a worthy role model of an honourable figure of the judiciary.”
The statement warned that those who committed the crime will be caught and handed the harshest penalty. The State, the statement said, will not allow itself to be diverted from its path of bringing about security and stability to Egypt.
Celebrations to mark the second anniversary of the 30 June Revolution, which led to the overthrow of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) rule that came to Egypt in the wake of the Arab Spring, have been called off in mourning for the death of Barakat.
He is the top Egyptian official to be assassinated since the ouster of the Islamist MB president Mursi two years ago. The attack came as Egyptian security forces were already on high alert in the wake of terrorist threats from the MB.
Churches offer condolences
Condolences flowed in once the news was officially announced. Churches, governors, State ministers, political parties, professional syndicates, rights groups, and cultural bodies and figures were among those who expressed their pain at the loss of Mr Barakat who was unanimously hailed as an exemplar figure of judicial integrity.
The Churches of Egypt—the Coptic Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical—all issued statements of condolence and announced their solidarity with Egypt’s battle against terrorism.
Online, Egyptians were almost unanimous in mourning the death of Mr Barakat, and condemning the “cowardly attack that killed the people’s lawyer”. But Egypt will never be brought to her knees, everyone insisted.
The deceased was killed in Ramadan, wrote Ahmed Muhammad. “He was an honourable man; he died while he was fasting the holy month.”
On the online news site www.Youm7.com Hanafi Gaber wrote decrying the recent opening of the Rafah crossing on the Egypt Gaza border. “It was a very big mistake,” he said. “We practically opened our borders to the [Palestinian Hamas] terrorists to come in and attack us. The result was that an honourable servant of the people was assassinated.”
Online visitors demanded as one man that Mr Barakat be lawfully and promptly avenged. “The police should track down the killers and bring them to justice,” was a common demand voiced by many. One blogger, Muhammad Qandil, accused the security apparatus of falling short of its role in protecting Egyptians. “This is not the first such incident,” he said, “and, unless we are all on high alert, it will not be the last. We need modernised, state-of-the-art police and intelligence apparatuses.”
On Facebook, writer and journalist Soliman Shafiq demanded that a statue of Mr Barakat should be erected in one of Cairo’s main squares.
Whereas Egyptians were almost unanimous in mourning Mr Barakat and insisting that the cowardly terrorist deed would never break Egypt, MB figures gloated. Hany al-Sebaie, the Takfiri leader now on asylum in the UK, posted: “We rejoice and praise Allah that the Egyptian public prosecutor is now dead.” Another leading MB figure, Ahmed al-Mugheer wrote: “To the new Prosecutor-General: a bombed car awaits you, and assassinations will reach out to everyone.”
An Islamist group that calls itself the Popular Resistance of Giza, known to be affiliated to the MB claimed responsibility for the bombing. Incidentally, a few hours after the group claimed that responsibility, its Facebook page disappeared. Over its Twitter account, it denied it had anything to do with Prosecutor Barakat’s assassination, and disowned the Facebook page that had held its name. The MB sites Nafizat Misr and Rasd both reiterated the Islamic group’s denial. They had formerly applauded terrorist operations claimed by the Popular Resistance which, according to a study by the research centre al-Marsad al-Arabi lil-Huqouq wal-Huriyaat (The Arab Monitor for Rights and Freedoms) that is famous for its ties with the MB, is responsible for 59 per cent of the violent incidents that took place in Egypt during 2014. Its activity covers Egypt nationwide from Alexandria in the north to Aswan in the south.
Islamist MB militants, who have primarily targeted security forces since the removal of Mr Mursi, have also attacked several judges during the last months. In May, three judges and their driver were killed when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in the North Sinai city of al-Arish. In March, a small bomb was left in front of the house of judge Fathi Bayoumi, who investigated the corruption charges against Mubarak-era interior minister Habib al-Adly. In January, a bomb attack targeting Judge Khaled Mahgoub, who acted for the general prosecution in Mursi’s jailbreak trial, caused damage to the windows and walls of his house.
More to come
The Egyptian Center for Combating Terrorism called upon all nations of the world and all rights groups to recognise that terrorist operations are conducted by the MB or their affiliates, and that accordingly the MB should be designated an international terrorist organisation. In the same vein, General Farouq al-Meqerhi, former deputy Interior Minister, said on satellite TV that the MB are primarily responsible for the death of Mr Barakat, since they are the group out of whose womb was born all Islamist terrorism. “The MB,” the General said, “want to shake the State at its roots. This being their main purpose, we can expect more terrorist operations in the future especially given that many of their leaders roam free around the world, including Mahmoud Ezzat. We need a strict law against terrorism that would allow the police and military to move effectively against them and to abort prospective terrorist operations.”
Mahmoud Badr, founder of the Tamarud, literally Rebel, movement which spearheaded the 30 June 2013 Revolution was hosted Monday evening by Wael al-Ibrashi on the talk show Al-Ashira Massa’an (10 O’Clock in the Evening) on Dream satellite channel. Tamarud had rallied for the revolution against Mursi and the MB back in 2013 when it gathered 22 million signatures calling for his removal. The goal of Tamarud which started its campaign in April 2013 was to gather 15 million signatures, the number of votes through which Mursi had won the presidency one year earlier by the thin margin of 51 per cent. The 22 million signatures metamorphosed into some 30 million protestors who took to the streets of Egypt on 30 June 2013 calling for the downfall of Mursi.
Rule or kill
On last Monday’s talk show Badr said that the Egyptian people are still paying the price for waging the revolution and overthrowing the MB. “The MB failed to rule Egypt,” he said, “and have now turned against the Egyptian people. They are killing the people who rejected their rule. Today, we are all martyrs-in-waiting for the MB to kill us.” Badr’s words brought to mind a conversation that took place before the 30 June Revolution between the MB leading figure Khairat al-Shater and Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, today Egypt’s President who was then Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Back then Egypt was facing the ghost of civil war and the military were attempting to persuade Mursi to resolve the crisis and reach some middle ground with the people, but the then President, backed by his MB supporters, refused to do so. Shater had then met Mr Sisi and belligerently threated that, should the army decide to take the side of the people, Egypt would see a bloodbath. Sisi’s reply: “Are you telling me that you either rule us or kill us?”
On the recent satellite TV Badr said: “Those [among rights activists] who justify or find excuses for Islamist terrorism should stop doing so. Enough is enough! Their excuses merely serve the terrorist ends of the Islamists.”
The hero’s daughter
Mr Barakat’s daughter Marwa, who is a member of the judicial corps, posted on her Facebook page photos and comments that spoke of the warm relation she always had with her father. Her pain-loaded remarks at the loss of a dear, supportive, honoured parent broke the hearts of Egyptians and brought tears to their eyes. But it was her last phrase that went viral online. “I was the Prosecutor-General’s daughter,” she wrote. “Now I am the hero’s daughter, I’m the hero’s daughter, I’m the hero’s daughter.”
Reported by Injy Samy, Sanaa’ Farouk, Mariam Adly, Mariam Rifaat, Michael Victor, Girgis Waheeb
1 July 2015