Egyptian Military Suspends Country's Constitution
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
In Egypt today, the country's first democratically elected president was overthrown in a military coup, and now it's suspected that ousted President Mohammed Morsi is under arrest. When the military announced the takeover, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians flooded the streets of Cairo...
(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)
SIEGEL: ...as crowd sang, chanted and launched fireworks in Tahrir Square. We go now to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Cairo for the latest. And, Soraya, first, what can you tell us about the fate of Morsi?
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, it's clear that he's missing. His aide - one of his aides who spoke to NPR said that he lost touch with him at 9 p.m. Cairo time as did his family. The fate of three of his top aides similarly unclear. And both the aide and the families of these men are demanding that the military produced them. They are suspected of being at the presidential guard palace, which is under the control of the military. But again, it's - there are a lot of questions. We just know that they are out of touch with their families and aides.
SIEGEL: Now, what did the defense ministry, the head of the military, what did he say about the next steps?
NELSON: He talked about suspending the constitution, which, of course, was approved by Islamists or a majority of Islamists, I should say, and appointing the head of the constitutional court, like a top judge in the country, to be interim president. There's also going to be a technocratic government that will carry the country through until early presidential elections, which have also been called for.
It's important to note that the defense minister also said that there will be a protection of freedom of expression and democratic principles. But then not long after he gave his speech, they shut down all the stations that were favorable to Morsi and to the Islamists and raided Al-Jazeera Egypt.
SIEGEL: Now, the man who's been named as the interim president is, as you say, the chief justice of the constitutional court. I gather very recently elevated to that post, do we know much about him?
NELSON: Yes. His name is Adly Mansour. He's a judge with more than 40 years of experience. He graduated from Cairo University, 67 years old. He's somebody who the former chief of the state court told a state newspaper is someone with no political affiliations and will protect the will of the people and constitutional and legal legitimacy.
SIEGEL: Now, supporters of President Mohammed Morsi, the ousted president, are decrying this move today as the death of democracy in Egypt. He won an election. How has Morsi himself reacted, or has he?
NELSON: Well, there was an initial tweet from the presidency after the speech was given by the defense minister and - in which he just - he denounced it, and he said that free men should stand up against this. Again, he hasn't been heard from since 9 p.m. Cairo time, so it's unclear at this point, you know, where he is, and he hasn't been able to make any comments.
SIEGEL: And you're now in the wee hours of the morning there in Cairo. Is - are there still crowds out in the streets?
NELSON: Yes. Certainly out in Tahrir Square and on the streets. I still hear honking out here even where we are in Zamalek. And apparently, there are also - or there were (unintelligible) people for President Morsi or for the deposed president out as well. It's difficult to get to them, though. Those broadcasts are being shut down.
SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Soraya.
NELSON: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson speaking to us from Cairo.
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