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Egyptians Angry at Muslim Brotherhood Have Muted Reaction to Mubarak News

August 19, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
According to Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers, Egyptians have had a "surprisingly muted" response to news that deposed leader Hosni Mubarak may be released. She talks to Jeffrey Brown about the killing of Muslim Brotherhood detainees by the government and pressures for journalists covering the turmoil.
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JEFFREY BROWN: A short time ago, I spoke via Skype to Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers in Cairo.

Nancy, welcome once again.

So, what kind of reaction have you gotten today to the possible release of Hosni Mubarak?

NANCY YOUSSEF, McClatchy Newspapers: Well, given that Egypt rose up against Mubarak just two years ago, saying that Egypt needed to see major reforms, it was surprisingly muted. And, I dare say, some people were fine with the news that the president who they rose up against now could be released.

There’s so much anger at the Muslim Brotherhood, the party through which Mohammed Morsi rose to the presidency, that it’s almost ground out what was outrage against Hosni Mubarak.

JEFFREY BROWN: Nancy, what about the killings in the Sinai? What’s known about who did it, the policemen who were killed there, who did it and what kind of — where they’re getting the support?

NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, the government says that those officers were killed in an RPG attack, that they were burned, that weapons had come from overseas, suggesting now that there are international elements supporting the Islamists and supporting the Morsi supporters and further branding them as terrorists.

The killing that really galvanized people around going after the Brotherhood, it was the deadliest attack on police officers in Egypt’s recent memory. And the images of their coffins coming back to Cairo really upset this public, which is already in a sort of emotional place in light of all the violence here.

But the idea that their officers could be killed by Islamists in their own borders really refueled ideas and notions amongst them that it was important for the government to keep going after Islamists, to charge them, to even kill them, to bring back stability to the country.

JEFFREY BROWN: And then the other incident over the weekend, the government now acknowledges that detainees, Muslim Brotherhood detainees, were killed.

But, of course, there’s quite a discrepancy in versions of that story.

NANCY YOUSSEF: That’s right.

The government claim that they were accidentally over-tear-gassed. But the Islamists claim that they were tortured. And I can tell you that we have spoken to officials at the morgue who have handled some of those bodies. And they say that they have seen signs of torture.

And what’s particularly disturbing about that incident is that it suggests that perhaps that we’re seeing death squads emerge and a real concerted effort to not prosecute those who are suspected to be terrorists or extremist elements, but to actually kill them even while in government custody.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, we mentioned the pressures being put on some Western journalists and others as to how this story is told.

How do you and your colleagues feel that? How is it — I don’t know. What kind of pressure do you feel?

NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, you feel it every day.

The government has come out and said that the Egyptian population is very, to use their words, bitter about the coverage by the international press corps. They feel that they are being called human rights abusers, when, in fact, from their perspective, they’re going after terrorist elements that threaten to destabilize the country.

It’s now almost impossible to go out to an event without being questioned by a security force official, who will then ask you what your perspective is and tell you that you’re against the Egyptian state. A number of journalists have been detained for several hours. Some have been beaten.

I can tell you that I was at an event a couple days ago. And a police officer yelled at the men around me that I was an American and therefore should be beaten. And the men began to manhandle me in an effort to suggest that I was somehow part of the problem.

And it’s been, I dare say, a systematic campaign going on by this government because there’s so much anger that the international community has suggested that what they’re doing is anything short of defending the state.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Nancy Youssef of McClatchy in Cairo, take care. And thanks again for talking to us.