Egypt's public prosecutor on Thursday ordered a probe into the top three leaders of the opposition, on suspicion of trying to incite followers to overthrow President Mohammed Morsi, AFP reported, citing a legal source.
According to the report the prosecutor, Taalat Ibrahim Abdallah, who was appointed by Morsi late last month, signed the order against the leaders of the opposition National Salvation Front, which led protests against Morsi's drive to have a new constitution adopted.
The probe targets Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize laureate, Amr Moussa, former chief of the Arab League, and Hamdeen Sabbahi, the leader of the nationalist left wing. Moussa and Sabbahi were presidential candidates in June elections that Morsi won, noted AFP.
The National Salvation Front alleged frauds and irregularities in the December 15 and 22 split referendum on the new charter, which Morsi signed into law this week.
It accuses Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of wanting to use the constitution to introduce creeping strict Islamic sharia law.
According to AFP, Abdallah called on Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki to name an investigating magistrate for the probe, which would examine suspicions of "inciting for the overthrow of the regime".
Abdallah himself announced his resignation last week, but several days later retracted the resignation. He told the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram that he changed his mind because he had resigned under pressure from members of the prosecution, adding that capitulating to this pressure would set an unacceptable precedent.
Morsi on Wednesday hailed the adoption of the new constitution with 64 percent of the votes in the referendum, though turnout was a low 33 percent.
The key points of the approved draft constitution are:
- Islam remains Egypt's official religion. The previous formulation that the "principles of sharia" are the main source of legislation is maintained.
However, these principles are broadened to include Sunni Muslim doctrinal interpretations.
- "Freedom of faith is guaranteed" -- but only for Islam, Christianity and Judaism, not for other religions.
- The president is limited to two consecutive four-year terms, not indefinitely as under Mubarak.
- The defense minister is chosen from within the military. Also, the military's budget will be decided by a committee dominated by military officers, effectively making it independent of civilian oversight.
- Civilians will not be tried in military courts except in cases where the "crimes may harm the armed forces." The opposition and rights groups demand that this vaguely defined exception be removed.
- The charter upholds "the equality of citizens under the law without discrimination," but omits an explicit mention of equality of the sexes.
- Freedom of expression is protected -- except when it comes to "insults against physical persons" or "insults towards the prophets." Some fear those exceptions open the door to censorship.
- The state is the designated protector of "public morals and order."
- It is forbidden for Egypt to sign international treaties and conventions that go against the constitution.