In Egypt, Ousted President's Appearance Brings Fresh Clashes

Protests in Egypt continued this week following ousted president Mohamed Morsi's appearance in court, the first time he's been seen in public since the July 3 military coup that toppled his democratically elected government. NPR Cairo correspondent Leila Fadel speaks with host Arun Rath about Egypt's prospects for getting back on a path to democracy.

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

The first democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, appeared in court on Monday. It was the first time he had been seen in public since the military coup that ousted him in early July. Morsi is being tried on charges of inciting murder and violence. He's become a rallying symbol for his supporters who have been protesting his ouster for more than four months. One person was killed and three others injured in the violence yesterday.

Meanwhile, the nation's leaders are trying to move ahead on a road map they say will put the country back on the path to democracy. NPR's Leila Fadel joins me now from Cairo. Hi, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Hi.

RATH: So let's start talking about these protests that have been going on. Is there an end in sight?

FADEL: Well, at this point, really, no. We've seen supporters of the ousted president and his Muslim Brotherhood protesting now for more than 100 days. More than 1,000 people killed, and a huge - I mean, basically, the largest crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in its 80-year - more than 80-year history. And they will - they still come out every Friday. Many Egyptians blaming them for the violence like we saw yesterday and days before.

RATH: And what do the protesters want?

FADEL: They basically say Morsi was an elected president. We chose him. He was ousted by a military coup, and now this country is back to military dictatorship.

Now, right now, they are a voice that's in the minority. After nearly three years of transition, a lot of Egyptians are just sick of protests. They're sick of transition. A lot of Egyptians just want stability and really are fine with this democratically elected leader being ousted and say the Muslim Brotherhood led badly.

RATH: So there is this road map, though, that's supposed to lead Egypt back to democracy. Tell us about that. When are the elections supposed to happen?

FADEL: Well, at this point, there's a 50-member committee working on the constitution, which will be put to referendum according to the schedule, by the end of this year. And if that happens, it will lead to parliamentary elections in February or March, as the foreign minister has recently said. And following that, presidential elections.

But the real question people are asking is, can this move towards democracy when a huge swath of society, supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood won't recognize the system are being marginalized, are being arrested? And can there really be a free and fair election? And can they participate when their organization is banned? And their political party is unclear if that will be legal come these elections next year.

RATH: Well, in the context of all that, is that road map - is that timetable realistic?

FADEL: What this new interim leadership wants is to get some legitimacy. At this point, it's a military-appointed government. So they're pushing ahead, steamrolling ahead on this road map because they see this as the only way to get to legitimacy. But even if elections do happen, the question is, will they be free and fair? And will everyone be included, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which has thousands of supporters in jail? And its entire leadership mostly in jail now too.

RATH: And critics are pointing to things like that, the concerns about freedom of speech and assembly, some of the basic tenants, really, of democracy. Can you talk about that?

FADEL: That's right. I mean, under the Morsi leadership, one of the biggest criticisms at that time was that he was trying to suppress his critics. But as soon as he was ousted, all the opposition channels were shut down. There is no outlet for opposition voices at this point.

You look at a satirist like Bassem Youssef, the Jon Stewart of Egypt, his show now off the air by the private channel itself. But he was highly criticized just for making fun of military supporters. So at this point, it seems like there isn't much space for criticism, for freedom of speech, for real free journalism, which, as you said, are the tenants of democracy.

RATH: NPR Cairo correspondent Leila Fadel. Thanks, Leila.

FADEL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RATH: This is NPR News.

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