Egypt Islamists: military will not escape scrutiny

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 20, 2012 2:04 PM
Egypt Islamists: military will not escape scrutiny

CAIRO (Reuters) - The head of the Muslim Brotherhood, set to be the biggest party in Egypt's new freely elected parliament, said Friday interim military rulers would be held accountable after handing power to civilians for any mistakes made during their time at the helm.

The military budget will also be subject to parliamentary oversight, the Brotherhood's general guide, Mohamed Badie, said in an interview with private Egyptian channel Dream TV, three days before the first session of parliament's lower house.

The military council, which took over from Hosni Mubarak last February after the president of 30 years was ousted during 18 days of popular protests, has promised to relinquish power to civilian officials once presidential elections are completed in June. But activists fear it is actually working behind the scenes to maintain sway over Egyptian politics.

Some analysts have suggested the military will not fully abandon politics unless the Muslim Brotherhood and other prominent political parties offer guarantees that it will not face legal retribution over the killing of protesters.

Mubarak, 83, has been put on trial following he 2011 uprising, in which at least 850 people lost their lives.

Badie said it was time to work through the institutions of state and not to make an enemy of the army through the repeated protests organized by youth groups opposed to military rule.

He rejected comparisons between the military council and what he described as Mubarak's corrupt regime. But he warned that the new elected parliament would hold the military council responsible for its conduct during its interim rule, in which dozens of protesters have been killed and wounded.

"We say that we respect and appreciate the army but the military council must be held accountable for any mistakes... No one is above accountability," Badie said.

"This is a transitional period and we urge everyone to cooperate until we reach safety. Then the free, elected People's Assembly will adopt all remaining demands to ensure they are achieved. The first of your demands is for those who made mistakes to be held accountable and for the rights of the martyrs and the wounded. Those who made mistakes will be summoned by the People's Assembly and held to account."

On the foreign policy front, Badie said the Brotherhood would respect Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel as it respects any international agreement, provided the Jewish state did not violate the terms of the deal.

Coming from the very top of the Islamist group, whose leaders met with senior U.S. diplomats earlier this month, those comments are likely to reassure Washington, an important strategic ally of Cairo.

BUDGET OVERSIGHT

Some analysts had suggested that the Brotherhood's decision to keep its followers largely off the streets in recent months and focus on elections and consolidating its power in parliament indicated that it may not be willing to confront the military.

Badie's comments suggest a more muscular approach to the military after the Brotherhood, which had been banned for decades, won almost half the seats in the lower house of parliament in Egypt's first free elections for 60 years.

Badie said a national security council should be established to manage Egypt's security but that parliament, not the military, should decide who sits on that body and that the military would be subject to parliamentary oversight.

"The responsibility for oversight on all the people's institutions lies with the people's assembly and that includes the military because it is a national institution just like all the other national institutions."

Regarding the military's budget, he said: "This is part of the budget of Egypt and it must be reviewed and studied and scrutinized by the People's Assembly... but through a special committee that includes those responsible for national security in order to protect Egypt's military secrets."

The military-backed interim government presented in November a set of supraconstitutional principles that would have shielded the military's budget from parliamentary oversight, limiting the ability of elected officials to keep the generals in check.

The proposals caused an outcry across a spectrum of political groups and the Muslim Brotherhood organized a major demonstration on the eve of the elections to protest the move.

(Writing by Lin Noueihed)