Poetic Justice

August 20, 2013

In Blog

Egypt’s ElBaradei faces charges over ‘betrayal of trust’

August 20, 2013 3:30AM ET
Former vice president accused of betraying his country because of resignation after crackdown on Morsi supporters
ElBaradei Egypt
Nobel Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei leaves at the end of a joint press conference on November 22, 2012, in Cairo, Egypt.

Former Egyptian vice president Mohamed ElBaradei will be sued in court on charges of “breaching national trust” over his decision to quit the military-led, interim government following a bloody crackdown on members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The charges against ElBaradei were filed by Sayed Ateeq, a law professor at Cairo’s Helwan University, who accuses the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of committing “high treason” and damaging Egypt’s image by quitting his job.

According to the court complaint, ElBaradei’s resignation gave the wrong impression to the international community, suggesting that the Egyptian government had used excessive force against protesters. “[This] contradicts reality,” the complaint said.

ElBaradei faces a misdemeanor charge that could carry a $1,430 fine if he is convicted, according to a report from the state-run news agency Al-Ahram.

Atmosphere of polarization

Khaled Dawoud, a former spokesman of the National Salvation Front, which ElBaradei co-founded, told Al Jazeera that the prosecutor general’s decision to refer the case to court was probably a consequence of the current atmosphere of polarization in the country.

“This is a reflection of the atmosphere in Egypt right now. You cannot take your independent stand or otherwise you will be considered breaching national trust” Dawoud said. “The complaint against ElBaradei is ridiculous. I just could not believe this kind of case will be filed.”

ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear agency, stepped down hours after security forces brutally dispersed two protests in support of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, killing at least 830 people, according to official figures.

In his resignation letter, ElBaradei lamented the violent crackdown, warning of a “state of polarization and grave division… the social fabric is threatened as violence breeds violence.”

Under Egyptian law, anyone can file a criminal complaint, which is usually investigated by a judge who decides whether or not to refer the case to trial.

Many cases are quickly thrown out by judges.

In ElBaradei’s case, however, because it is a misdemeanor offense, the case will proceed directly to trial; the judge will decide at the first hearing whether to allow it to proceed.

The lawsuit follows a wave of arrests against Brotherhood leaders in recent days.

Earlier Tuesday, security forces arrested Mohamed Badie, the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood.

ElBaradei, who has been denounced by Egyptian media since his resignation, was the most high-profile liberal to endorse the military coup against Morsi. 

The former diplomat left Egypt for Vienna days after his resignation, and remains outside the country.