Morsi Critic: 'What Happens In Egypt Is Not Very Clear Abroad'

Robert Siegel checks in with Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany, who protested against the Mubarak regime and criticized ousted president Mohammed Morsi during his time in office, about the military's crackdown on pro-Morsi supporters.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Late tonight, security forces cleared out the mosque that had been serving as a makeshift morgue. Muslim Brotherhood leaders say police used tear gas to force people out. Television images from the scene showed people carrying bodies out of the mosque. Well now to someone we've occasionally checked in with over the past couple of years. Dr. Alaa al-Aswany, an Egyptian novelist. Dr. al-Aswany protested against the Mubarak regime, and he was critical of President Mohamed Morsi for, among other things, putting his own decisions above the law. Well, earlier today I asked al-Aswany if the crackdown on pro-Morsi protests was necessary or excessive. al-Aswany was very supportive of the government's actions.

DR. ALAA AL-ASWANY: Well, it was unavoidable. The Egyptian state was not facing peaceful protesters. We have armed violent groups who are killing people. I feel, of course, very, very sorry for all the victims who were killed yesterday, and I don't care on which side the victims were. But I believe that the Egyptian state didn't have any other choice, and I believe that the Muslim brothers hold responsibility for this drama.

SIEGEL: Dr. al-Aswany, I want to put to you something that The New York Times wrote today in an editorial titled "Military Madness in Cairo." It wrote this: The transitional government is little more than window dressing for military rule. Those liberals and moderates who have enabled and emboldened the military have been complicit in this deception. Would you dispute that, that right now the real rulers...

AL-ASWANY: Absolutely. I think it's not right because Mr. Morsi who - for some reasons I could understand now, has been supported by the American administration the same way Mubarak was supported. Mr. Morsi, before, killed his police by his orders, 52 people in an Egyptian city called Port Said. And we saw this on TV.

Mr. John Kerry, by that time, by coincidence, was in Cairo where the people were killed in the streets, shot to death by the police. And Mr. Kerry came and made visits to Mr. Morsi, and he didn't (unintelligible). So...

SIEGEL: But, Dr. al-Aswany, the United States says they dealt with President Morsi because he was the elected president of Egypt. My question is, right now, is there de facto military rule in Egypt? Is that a fair observation?

AL-ASWANY: No, there is no military rule in Egypt, and there will never be a military rule in Egypt. And what happened is that we are living in a transition period. We're going to have a real constitution because the constitution imposed on us by the brothers was illegal. And, second, we're going to have elected president very soon.

But that's very interesting because you repeated that the U.S. administration supported Morsi because he was an elected president. Fine. He was an elected president who stopped the law.

SIEGEL: Mohamed ElBaradei resigned from the interim government yesterday, claiming in his letter of resignation that there actually still had been possibilities for a negotiated end to the pro-Morsi protests. Do you think he was wrong in opposing the use of force yesterday?

AL-ASWANY: Absolutely. I think he was wrong. I think he underestimated the danger of these terrorists. I know Mr. Baradei. I have been supporting him as somebody who played a major role in the revolution. But he (unintelligible) to compromise with terrorists, and I think his position was absolutely wrong.

SIEGEL: There's a roadmap that Egypt intends to follow. Just I think seven months between now and the presidential election. Between then and now, there would be a new constitution or amendments to the constitution. There would be parliamentary elections. The country now is under a state of emergency and curfew. Do you really believe that there can be a true political campaign season and a discussion of the issues facing Egypt under those conditions?

AL-ASWANY: Yes. For the roadmap, I think yes. We must have the constitution first, of course. And then after that, the election. And I believe that there would be civil elected president and elected parliament who will take over. And I don't think there would be a military ruling. Egypt had - not only because I trust the generals but because I trust the Egyptian people.

SIEGEL: Dr. Alaa al-Aswany, thank you very much for talking to us once again.

AL-ASWANY: Thank you, thank you.

SIEGEL: Alaa al-Aswany, who happens to be a dentist, that's what his doctoral degree is for, is an Egyptian writer whose novels include "The Yacoubian Building" and "Chicago."

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