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Egyptian Military Ousts Morsi, Nation’s First Democratically Elected President

July 3, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
In Tahrir Square, hundreds of thousands of protesters erupted in celebration after Egypt's military commander announced Mohammed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, had been removed from office and the constitution suspended. Margaret Warner reports.
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GWEN IFILL: Egypt’s first democratically elected leader has been overthrown by the country’s armed forces. President Mohammed Morsi has reportedly been moved to an undisclosed location. Morsi’s Twitter account quotes him saying he rejects what he called a full coup.

Margaret Warner begins our coverage.

MARGARET WARNER: Cheers erupted from hundreds of thousands celebrating in Tahrir Square, as the commander of Egypt’s army announced President Mohammed Morsi was no longer in power.

GEN. ABDEL FATTAH AL-SISI, Egyptian Defense Minister: The chief justice of the constitutional court will declare before the court the early president-election, where the justice of the constitutional court will run the state’s affairs unit in the interim period, until the new president is elected.

MARGARET WARNER: He also said the state’s Islamic-backed constitution would be suspended pending review. It all happened after a tension-filled 24-hours, as a military-imposed deadline neared for President Morsi to respond to the demands of the people in the streets.

In a defiant speech to the nation last night, Morsi vehemently defended his position as the elected leader of the country.

PRESIDENT MOHAMMED MORSI, Egypt: We now have a reference. We now have legitimacy with our own will, an elected president, a constitution voted by the people, and we are working according to this legitimacy. The revolution of Jan. 25 and the achievement of its goals completely, the price tag for protecting it is my life, my own life. I want to take care of all of your lives.

MARGARET WARNER: When morning came, Egyptians awoke to reports that the military had taken over the Al-Ahram newspaper. And armored vehicles surrounded the state television headquarters, as officers were stationed in corridors and the newsroom.

Minutes before the military deadline passed, Morsi’s office did release a statement backing a coalition government as a means to resolve the conflict. But the last-ditch effort was largely ignored by opposition political, religious, and youth leaders, who met instead with the military chiefs to plan a way forward. And security officials reportedly imposed travel bans on Morsi and his top allies.

Liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said that the Arab spring-inspired revolution of 2011 had been relaunched by today’s announcement of an army-sponsored road map. In his announcement tonight, the commander of Egypt’s army said it’s time to bring the country together.

ABDEL FATTAH AL-SISI: The Egyptian armored forces appeal to the Egyptian people with all its spectrum to maintain peaceful demonstration, steer away from violence, which will bring about further tension and shedding the blood of the innocent.

And the armed forces warn that it will stand up firmly in cooperation with the Interior Ministry security personnel firmly and strictly to any act deviating from peacefulness under the rule of law, based on its patriotic and historic responsibility.

MARGARET WARNER: Large crowds remain on the streets of Cairo, as Egyptian troops have been deployed around the city in case of violence.