Human Rights Watch released a statement yesterday calling on Egypt's public prosecutor to investigate the detentions and beatings, and the possible links to authorities.
The president must have been aware of what was happening for 15 hours outside the gates of his palace, where Ministry of Interior officials were present and aware of the detentions and abuse, says Heba Morayef, Egypt director for Human Rights Watch. "Yet in his speech he not only made no reference to this, but actually spoke out against people who were at that point were still being investigated and therefore covered by the presumption of innocence," she says.
His actions, particularly regarding the role of the public prosecutor, have dangerous implications, she says. "It puts us in an extremely dangerous position. Because if the public prosecutor is now seen as a pro-Morsi, politicized figure, then that further destroys what little respect there is left for these institutions as being the objective, rule-of-law-applying bodies in the country."
The prosecutor's role in events has also become controversial. The president appointed the public prosecutor, Talaat Abdallah, as part of a sweeping decree that sacked the Mubarak-era prosecutor, sidelined the judiciary, and made his own powers immune to judicial review. Mr. Abdallah today reversed a decision to transfer the local prosecutor who ordered the release of the prisoners detained by Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm reported the local prosecutor accused Abdallah of ordering his transfer as a punitive measure after he refused Abdallah's pressure to charge some of the protesters with crimes.