By Mick Krever, CNN
Is the Muslim Brotherhood banned in Egypt?
Earlier this week, an Egyptian court ordered a ban on activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and froze its finances, according to state-run news website EgyNews.
Not so fast, a top adviser ElMostafa Hegazy, political and strategic adviser to the president of Egypt, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
“The Muslim Brotherhood as an organization” – Hegazy using air quotes as he said the word – “has never been a legal organization,” he told Amanpour. “It has been only a name, a slogan, that’s called the MBs, but all the time – as you said – they’ve been running as independents under this kind of theme, under this kind of slogan.”
“Maybe,” he allowed, “I would say – in a slogan way of saying it – that they have been a ‘banned organization.’”
When the Egyptian military ousted the elected president, Mohamed Morsy, it was in the name of democracy, which detractors said Morsy had usurped.
Now, months later, a government is in power, but members of the opposition and journalists have been rounded up and arrested – six weeks ago nearly a thousand people were killed when police dispersed their sit-in camps in Cairo.
“Desperate times requires desperate measures,” Hegazy said.
He compared the situation in Los Angeles in 1990s, when after a black man, Rodney King, was brutally beaten by police, violent riots consumed the city.
“We had emergency laws in Los Angeles [at] the time, and we had the National Guard in the street,” Hegazy told Amanpour. “In a way … what happened [in Los Angeles] in a week could have been extended in Cairo for about a month or so.”
Whether or not the comparison has merit, the obvious question is, when will you hold elections?
Hegazy said that a referendum would be held on the constitution “probably the end of the December.”
“Once we have the constitution in place, we will be calling for parliamentary elections in about a week or so,” he said. “And then we start the process of parliamentary elections for another two months or more, so we’re looking at the end of parliamentary elections probably towards the end of March, early April.”
So, Amanpour asked, “do you envision presidential elections next summer?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” he answered.
He blamed criticism of his government on “linear thinking.”
“Wrong thinking?,” Amanopur asked?
“Yeah,” he responded. “I believe so.”
“It’s been portrayed in a certain way, like this is like a tyranny re-establishing itself; this is not the case,” he told Amanpour. “We have a certain security situation that might dictate having a curfew, for instance, as one of the instruments in order to maintain security.”
Journalists and members of the opposition, he said, are free to criticize the government.
“No one is in any way chasing them or detaining them,” he said. “The people that [have] been instigating violence – those are the people in jail.”
One of those people now in jail is Gehad Hedad, a spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood who has appeared frequently on Amanpour’s program.
He joins Former President Mohamed Morsy, who is being held in an undisclosed location, saying only that he is “in a safe place.”
Does he have access to lawyers? Amanpour asked.
“I think he does,” Hegazy said.
Are you sure? Amanpour asked.
“I know it,” he answered. “He does.”
The former president will have a civilian trial, Hegazy said, which will commence after an investigation by the “Egyptian judiciary” is complete.
“We have certain faction which is not, I would say, aligned with Egyptians’ view to the future,” he told Amanpour, referring tacitly to the Muslim Brotherhood. “You have a golden opportunity. It’s about time for you to join Egyptians, not the other way around. It’s a golden opportunity that they can capture – that they can seize the moment.”