PRESIDENT Mohammed Morsi of Egypt has denied trying to marginalise the nation’s military after he ordered the retirement of his powerful defence minister, saying he was acting in the interests of the country.
But the United States yesterday urged Egypt’s military and government to work together, the day after Prime Minister Mohamed Morsi forced out the country’s long-standing defence minister.
“It is important for the Egyptian military and civilian to work closely together to address the economic and security challenges facing Egypt,” White House press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters.
“We hope that President Morsi’s announcement will serve the interests of the Egyptian people,” he said.
Meanwhile, a television boss, Tawfiq Okasha, and newspaper journalist, Islam Afifi, will be tried for “incitement” and insulting Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the prosecutor’s office said yesterday.
But the Egyptian media yesterday described Morsi’s move as “revolutionary”, with some saying it was aimed at ending the power of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
“I never intended, through my decisions, to marginalise or be unjust toward anyone, but rather to act so that we advance toward a better future, with a new generation, long-awaited new blood,” Morsi said in a speech at Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque late on Sunday.
“I only wish them the best. I want them to devote themselves to a mission, the protection of the nation,” he said.
“I did not intend to embarrass institutions,” he added, saying he had “the interest of the country in mind.”
In a move that drew thousands of Islamist supporters to Cairo’s Tahrir Square in celebration, Morsi Sunday effectively dismissed Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who ruled Egypt for more than a year after the revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.
Armed forces chief of staff Sami Anan was also retired, state television said, a week after a deadly attack on the Egyptian military in the Sinai prompted an unprecedented military campaign in the lawless peninsula.
The president also scrapped a key constitutional document, which gave the military legislative powers and other prerogatives, his spokesman Yasser Ali said.
The surprise announcements marked a new twist in the uneasy relationship between Morsi and the army, testing the balance of power between the first civilian president in Egypt’s history and a military that had moved to limit his power.
Okasha, owner of the private channel Al-Faraeen, is accused of “incitement to murder” of the Islamist president, said Adel Saeed, a spokesman for the prosecutor general.
Afifi, editor-in-chief of Al-Dustour newspaper, is accused of having published “false information” deemed insulting to Morsi and which could also “undermine and destabilise” Egypt, he added.
Okasha and Afifi must appear before the Cairo criminal court, he said.
On Sunday, the prosecution imposed a travel ban on the pair, prohibiting them from travelling outside Egypt while they are being investigated for anti-Morsi remarks after complaints were lodged against them.
Okasha hosts a controversial talk show on his private television channel and is known to be staunchly anti-Islamist and opposed to Morsi, who was fielded by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party in the May-June presidential election.
Last week, authorities ordered the show off the air for a month for “incitement to murder of President Morsi and to overthrow of the government.”
Thousands of Islamist supporters celebrated the announcement Sunday night in Cairo’s Tahrir square, which had played home to the protests that ousted Mubarak.
“The people support the president’s decision,” the crowd chanted. Others mocked Tantawi’s departure, presented officially as a retirement.