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Egypt investigating former presidential candidates for treason

Egypt's chief prosecutor on Thursday ordered an investigation into allegations that opposition leaders were inciting supporters to overthrow the country's president Mohammed Morsi [BBC profile, JURIST news archive], which amounts to treason. The investigations are against Mohammed El-Baradei, a Nobel Peace laureate and former head of the UN nuclear agency, former Foreign Minister Amr Mousa [BBC profiles] and Hamdeen Sabahi [Aljazeera profile]. The accusations were filed [Aljazeera report] earlier this month by two lawyers and the order to investigate came a day after Morsi signed [JURIST report] into law the country's new constitution [text, PDF]. The three individuals had created a coalition, the National Salvation Front, in an effort to protest against Morsi. Mousa and Sabahi were presidential candidates in the recent presidential election. Critics have condemned the recent investigative order, accusing Morsi of taking measures similar to ousted president Hosni Mubarak [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] against his opponents. According to them, the order is merely an attempt to silence opposition against his regime. The new constitution that was signed on Wednesday was supported by over 63 percent of those who voted in the referendum but only 32.9% of Egypt's total of 52 million voters actually participated in the referendum.

Egypt is still attempting to reconcile the political crash arising out of the Egyptian revolution [JURIST backgrounder] last year, particularly regarding the constitution. The final draft of the constitution is backed by the Islamists and has been extremely controversial. Earlier in this month, the UN Working Group on discrimination against women [official website] expressed grave concern [JURIST report] over the draft constitution. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] has also expressed concern at the rising death toll during the ongoing political chaos in Egypt, saying that Egypt's draft constitution presents serious problems for human rights [JURIST report]. Pillay complained [UN News Centre report] that the draft constitution was passed without the participation of Christian or liberal legislators. Pillay also said that she was concerned about the draft constitution's omission of references to international human rights treaties that Egypt ratified in the past. While Pillay commended the fact that the draft constitution imposes term limits on President Mohammed Morsi and provides some protections for freedom of expression and religion, she noted that these protections were not strong enough.

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