x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Salafist adviser to Morsi quits in protest against sacking

Signs of a rift between the Salafist Al Nour and the Brotherhood have been surfacing, including a spat over credit for organising a reconciliation meeting with liberal opposition figures.

CAIRO // An ultraconservative Islamist adviser to Egypt's president resigned yesterday in solidarity with a fellow aide who was fired amid allegations of abuse of office.

The resignation of Bassam Zarka, who is a member of the Salafi Al-Nour party, is the latest sign of tension between President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist ally ahead of parliamentary elections expected in the coming months.

The party denies its member had abused his office.

Al Nour, which emerged from obscurity to win the second largest bloc of votes in Egypt's first parliamentary elections in 2011 - just behind the Brotherhood - has been increasingly critical of Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood for what it describes as their monopolisation of power.

Some of its members have accused Mr Morsi, in office for more than seven months, of failing to reach a compromise with the vocal liberal and secular opposition, prolonging political turmoil that was characterised by violent street protests and a heavy-handed security crackdown on dissent.

In an escalation of street turmoil in the restive coastal city of Port Said, hundreds of protesters blocked central roads and enforced a work stoppage in some government and port customs offices for the second straight day. They demanded retribution and a new investigation into the death of scores of people during anti-government protests in the Suez Canal city last month.

The strike did not disrupt shipping in the canal, but it has raised pressure on Mr Morsi's government to do something to resolve it. In an attempt to assuage the situation, the provincial governor Major General Ahmed Abdullah said the state would increase the amount of compensation it would pay for those killed in the violence, and that the central government had promised a new investigation.

Signs of a rift between the Salafist Al Nour and the Brotherhood have been surfacing in the past weeks, including a public spat over credit for who organized a reconciliation meeting with liberal opposition figures. Competition between the various Islamist parties is expected to be fierce in the upcoming elections.

On Sunday, the presidential spokesman Yasser Ali had announced the dismissal of Mr Zarka's colleague, Khaled Alam Eldin, adviser to the president for environmental affairs. Another official in the presidency, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said Alam Eldin was fired over reports of abuse of power.

At the news conference broadcast live on television yesterday where Mr Zarka resigned, his fired Al Nour colleague Alam Eldin broke down in tears while denying he had abused his office. He demanded an apology from Mr Morsi for the dismissal, calling it "political" and saying he was offended by how he was informed of an investigation into his tenure.

"I will accept nothing less than an apology from the president," Mr Eldin said, reaching out for a handkerchief from the podium. "I am amazed at those who in cold blood and for political reasons don't care about who they hurt."

Mr Eldin's tears followed an announcement from his party's spokesman that an apology is imminent. But the president's legal adviser, Mohammed Fouad Gadallah said there was no reason for an apology.

"Apologize for what?" he told the station during the conference. "There are accusations that turned into evidence, and an investigation which proves that one of his team has committed crimes." The dismissal was to ward off smearing the presidency, he added.

In an angry reaction, Al Nour's spokesman Nader Bakkar wrote on Twitter that Mr Morsi should consider resigning "since some of his subordinates are suspected of intentionally killing protesters".