Archive for December, 2013


Monday, 18 November 2013

The list of those being considered for prosecution by a team of international lawyers includes journalists and clerics associated with the coup in Egypt, it has been revealed. Tayab Ali of London’s ITN Solicitors, who heads the team, said that they intend to prosecute all those accused with crimes against humanity in Egypt, whether military or civilian officials, current or former.

Speaking during a press conference in London on Saturday, Ali said that all of those involved with inciting the killing of peaceful demonstrators face prosecution. However, he declined to name anyone on the list in order to preserve the confidentiality and integrity of the investigations.

Nevertheless, the Middle East Monitor (MEMO) has learned from other sources that the list of defendants includes generals and civilian leaders who took power after the coup, such as General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s Minister of Defense; Sedki Sobhi, the army Chief of Staff; Adly Mansour, the interim President; and Hazem Beblawi, the interim Prime Minister. The list also includes key members of the interim cabinet headed by Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy.

The anonymous sources said that the list of defendants includes journalists and politicians who would stand accused of inciting the coup authorities to commit crimes against humanity. According to the sources, the list includes media figures such as Lamees Al Hadidi, Amr Adeeb, Yousef al-Husseini, Wael Ebrashi and Khairi Ramadan; among the politicians threatened with prosecution are Tharwat Kherbawi and Abdel Halim Qandil. Muslim clerics on the list include the former Mufti of Egypt, Shaikh Ali Jumaa, who called openly on film for anti-coup protesters to be killed, calling them “infidels”.

Once formally accused, the list of defendants will be subject to universal jurisdiction laws which allow some states, including European countries and several others around the world, to arrest and put them on trial if they arrive on their sovereign territory for any reason.

Meanwhile, the International legal team had on Saturday announced the launch of a hotline and web address through which the public could submit information on suspects…

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/8364-egyptians-facing-international-prosecution-for-links-to-coup-includes-journalists-and-clerics.

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Tuesday, 05 November 2013

General Omar Afifi, an Egyptian political refugee in the US, has criticized Egypt’s Defense Minister General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi for denying media channels the right to broadcast the trial of former President Mohamed Morsi.

Afifi posted the following comments on Facebook: “General Al Sisi has insulted and despised the Egyptian people when he refused to broadcast the trial of ousted President Morsi. He has misled the public and deliberately displayed contempt for the Egyptian people’s will. But who are the rightful owners of Egypt? The Egyptian people are entitled to know the complete truth. By not broadcasting Morsi’s trial, Al-Sisi has intentionally and recklessly insulted the Egyptian people, who have every right to know the full truth and to decide on their own who is a traitor and who is a thief. Who is the oppressor and who is oppressed? The people are meant to choose their ruler! How will the Egyptians choose if everything is hidden? Why did Al-Sisi prevent the media from broadcasting Morsi’s trial? What does he want to hide from the people and what is he afraid of? The Egyptian people must know the truth to decide their own destiny and to choose their rulers or to oust them.

I tell both Al-Sisi and Morsi that nothing remains hidden forever. The truth must be revealed out of respect for the Egyptian people.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/8163-general-afifi-denounces-media-blackout-during-morsis-trial.

Wednesday, 06 November 2013

A report by the Arab Organization for Human Rights has revealed that an Israeli company, Seagull Maritime Security, provides maritime security services for cruises and cargo ships passing through the Suez Canal in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities have granted the company a license to work in the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and in Arab and African ports including Jordan, UAE and Oman.

According to the report the company is one of the few whose guards are allowed to disembark fully armed on the Egyptian Tiran Island.

The company’s official site does not reveal its Israeli identity however several other sites connected to the company reveal the background of the company’s directors and managers as IDF veterans from elite units. The company is a member of the Israeli Association of Private Security Companies. The company was founded by its CEO, Kfir Magen who served as an officer in the Israeli navy, in 2008. According to related sites the company’s directors were prominent leaders of the Israeli army, including Eliezer Marom who served as a navy commander between 2007 until 2011. Marom planned the attack against the Freedom Flotilla in 2010 and Operation Cast Lead in 2008.

The company’s advisory board chairman, Ami Ayalon, served as commander in chief of the navy in 1992 and participated in an attack against the Suez in 1969 which claimed the lives of 80 Egyptian soldiers. Ayalon who served as head of the Shin Bet in 1996 now works within the company.

According to the report several Israeli veterans work for the same company, including Jeremy Weiss who served as a senior commander in the Israeli Special Forces, Yuval Brenner who served as an officer in the Israeli elite scouts unit and Ron Ben- Shimon.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/8173-egypts-coup-leaders-employ-israeli-company-to-secure-suez-canal.

Thursday, 07 November 2013

The interim Egyptian presidents’ spokesman, Ehab Badawi, has said that Egypt will reassess its relations with Turkey in light of Turkey’s contradictory messages towards the country. Badawi said the “Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s, narrow partisan vision has forced Egypt and Turkish- Egyptian relations towards a path that Egypt had been careful to avoid out of respect to our historical relations”. Badawi said “the Turkish Prime Minister’s statements are made as calls emerge demanding the Egyptian ambassador return to Ankara”.

Badawi’s comments followed statements by the Turkish Prime Minister on events in Egypt. Erdogan said “the Rabaa al Adawiya four finger symbol by ousted President Mohammed Morsi supporters is not a mere symbol of the Egyptian people’s just cause. It has become a symbol to denounce injustice and oppression all over the world”.

The Turkish foreign ministry has released a statement demanding Egypt release all political prisoners including Mohammed Morsi, saying such a move would significantly contribute to achieving reconciliation and dialogue.

The Egyptian foreign ministry condemned Erdogan’s speech during the Justice and Development Party’s meeting, saying the Turkish Prime Minister’s remarks come after a series of statements made by Turkish officials.

The Egyptian foreign ministry’s statement said “the Turkish officials insist on falsifying facts about the situation in Egypt and defying the will of the Egyptian people. The most recent statement by the Turkish foreign ministry on Monday is an unacceptable interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/8197-egypt-to-re-evaluate-relations-with-turkey.

Monday, 04 November 2013

Upon his first appearance in court, ousted Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, introduced himself before as “the legal president of Egypt,” and waved his hand with the Rabaa al-Adawiyya massacre symbol.

From inside the court, Morsi said, “I am Dr Mohammed Morsi, the legal president of the Arab Republic of Egypt.”

Witnesses said that he raised his hand to show the Rabaa al-Adawiyya massacre symbol.

He said, “I am here because I fell (victim) to a crime, by the traitors who carried out a coup. They removed me from my position. Since I separate the judiciary from having taken part in such a crime, I place responsibility on the judge.”

Morsi also said, “The order to prosecute me is invalid since the public prosecutor is illegal and he was appointed by the coup authorities.”

The hearing session started at 10.00 am, Cairo time. It was planned to take place in the Appeal Court’s headquarters in Cairo, but was later moved to the court at the Police Academy.

Many anti-coup journalists and advocates were prevented from attending the proceedings. The hearing session was then postponed because security sources claimed that there were “security threats.”

Witnesses said that Morsi had chanted, “Down with the military coup.” They said that the other Muslim Brotherhood leaders, who were in the same dock, repeated the same chant after him.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/8143-this-is-what-morsi-told-the-judge.

1 November 2013

Supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi staged several marches on Friday in Cairo and several cities to voice their support for Mursi whose trial is expected to take place on Monday.

The trial of Mursi and several Muslim Brotherhood leading figures is scheduled for next Monday.

The charges include inciting violence during clashes between supporters and opponents of the Brotherhood at the presidential palace on December 5. Eleven people, including Journalist al-Husseini Abu Deif, were killed while hundreds were injured in these clashes.

In Cairo, allies of Mursi marched from mosques in Helwan, Maadi, and Nasr City, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported.

A march for Muslim Brotherhood supporters headed from Maadi and Helwan on its way to the Ittihadeya presidential palace in Cairo’s Masr al-Gedida, MENA added.

In Giza, Mursi supporters arranged marches from al-Mahrousa and al-Istiqama mosques. They carried banners with the Rabaa symbol and chanted slogans calling for the return of Mursi to power.

Police forces sealed off Mostafa Mahmoud and Nahda squares in anticipation of marches that might head to these squares.

In Alexandria, an eyewitness reported the outbreak of limited clashes between a pro-Mursi march on one hand and Alexandria residents and police forces on the other.

The police arrested a number of Brotherhood supporters after they were found in possession of what the police called anti-Armed Forces leaflets.

Source: allAfrica.
Link: http://allafrica.com/stories/201311011206.html.

October 21, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian anti-riot police fired tear gas Sunday at hundreds of supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president, besieging them inside a prestigious Muslim institution after stone-hurling protesters cut off a main road.

Sunday’s clashes marked the second day of unrest at Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s most prominent center of learning. Many supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood are students at Al-Azhar, a stronghold of the group. The campus is also near where Islamists had set up a sprawling protest camp that security forces raided in August, leaving hundreds dead and sparking days of unrest.

The students’ protest started with a march inside campus, where protesters hurled stones at the administrator’s offices, smashing windows and breaking doors, said Ibrahim el-Houdhoud, deputy head of the university. He told satellite news channel Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr that he warned protesters against leaving campus and clashing with security forces.

The protesters however ignored the advice, marching out of the main gates to hold “prayers for the dead” — honoring students killed in earlier clashes between security forces and protesters in July. The protests come amid heated debate over a new law that would place tougher restrictions on demonstrators, which includes imposing heavy fines and possible jail time on violators.

Morsi was overthrown by the military July 3 after millions took to the streets to demand he step down. Since then, Cairo has seen non-stop demonstrations by his supporters demanding his return. A military-backed crackdown has left hundreds dead and seen thousands arrested.

Ousting Morsi escalated militant attacks in Egypt, especially in the volatile Sinai peninsula. Egypt’s interior minister escaped an assassination attempt when a car bomb targeted his convoy near his residence in Cairo last month.

There also have been attacks against Coptic Christian churches. On Sunday night, masked gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a group of people at a Coptic church holding a wedding in Cairo, killing a man, a woman and an 8-year-old girl, according to a statement from the Interior Ministry. The ministry did not offer a motive for the shooting, which happened in Cairo’s Waraa neighborhood.

Egypt’s official news agency MENA also reported that two members of Central Security Forces were injured Sunday when their bus came under attack near border town of Rafah in northern Sinai. Militants attacked the bus with automatic weapons and fled the scene. The soldiers were heading to their camp in Rafah.

October 08, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s capital has long been proud of its nickname, “Mother of the World” — a metropolis of 18 million throbbing with the vitality and fun of other great cities, even if at times it seemed unmanageable and chaotic.

But Cairo’s spirit has been deeply scarred by 32 months of turmoil and bloodshed from two “revolutions,” constant protests and crackdowns, and a military coup. Residents talk of an unfamiliar edginess. People are more suspicious of each other, whether because of increased crime or constant media warnings of conspiracies and terrorism.

Families are split by bitter ideological differences. Fights are sparked by a word or a gesture seen as supporting either the military or the Islamists who were ousted from power by the armed forces. The mood goes beyond ideology. With police battered by the upheaval and rarely enforcing regulations, many people flout laws with no thought of the consequences — whether it’s the cafes that take over sidewalks or thugs who seize plots of land.

A curfew in place for nearly two months has put a damper on Cairo’s nightlife. It has been eased to start at midnight, but that was usually the hour when streets and parties were just getting lively. Political violence has killed more than 2,000 people in the city and wounded many others, starting with the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak. That was followed by demonstrations against the military rulers who replaced Mubarak, the protests during President Mohammed Morsi’s year in office, and the June 30 “revolution” that prompted the July 3 coup against the president.

“Political differences have made some people lose their humanity,” said Shaiymaa Awad, a 32-year-old Morsi supporter. Awad said she was in a bus recently that drove past Rabaah el-Adawiya, the mosque where hundreds of Islamists were killed in August when police cracked down on a sit-in demanding Morsi’s reinstatement.

When she broke down crying, “other passengers looked surprised, but none of them understood why,” Awad said. The Rabaah mosque is not the only city landmark now more famous for one of the violent incidents of the past 2½ years. Others include:

— A historic bridge over the Nile, once a favored romantic spot for couples, that was the site of a battle between police and anti-Mubarak protesters.

— The towering Nile-side state TV headquarters nicknamed “Maspero,” now known for the army’s killing of more than 25 Christian protesters.

— Moqattam, once simply the rocky plateau overlooking the city where couples went to steal kisses, now remembered for a bloody street fight between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and opponents. New neighborhoods joined the list Sunday, when Morsi supporters and police clashed, killing at least 40 people. With more streets strewn with debris and blackened by fires, Cairenes fear the city is turning into a Baghdad or a Beirut at their most violent.

“Blood is everywhere,” said Belal Fadl, a popular satirical columnist and scriptwriter. “It is good that life goes on after every episode of bloodshed, but it is terrible from a human perspective,” he said, adding that people now react to violence “as if they are watching it on a silver screen.”

Cairo has long been an unruly, tough place — densely populated, heavily polluted and choked with traffic. With few parks or green spaces, and almost no street entertainment, residents have few public outlets for escape.

Yet it also was the place where all Egyptians — rich, poor, intellectuals, laborers and migrants from the countryside — were jammed together, forced to get along by smoothing over their differences with a sense of humor.

There was no contradiction seen between deep religious piety — another Cairo nickname is the “City of a Thousand Minarets” — and raucous street weddings with beer and belly dancers. The city has gone through rapid lurches. The anti-Mubarak uprising saw an idealistic, “revolutionary” optimism. Under Morsi, conservative Islamists were emboldened, scolding the public to adhere to “God’s law” and vilifying Christians and secular Egyptians.

Now the mood is defined by a media blitz demonizing the Islamists, idolizing military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and intimidating critics. One recent morning, a police officer shouted at a man whose car had broken down on a busy overpass. The man had a beard — a hallmark of an Islamist — and the policeman angrily accused him of intentionally trying to snarl traffic.

Later the same day, workers in one of the city’s country clubs berated a bearded colleague for putting worship ahead of work. “You cannot be at the mosque all day while we do all the work,” one barked.

The Aug. 14 crackdown near the Rabaah mosque left perhaps the deepest scar. The bloodshed gave Islamists a strong sense of martyrdom — but much of the rest of Cairo’s population showed little sympathy, embittered by Morsi’s presidency.

While the largely pro-military media hardly mention the deaths of Morsi supporters, the Sept. 19 killing by Islamic militants of a police general led to an outpouring of emotion for his widow and children. The interim president received them in his palace, and the education minister personally escorted two of the general’s children to school on the first day of classes.

The curfew imposed during the anti-Mubarak uprising was openly ignored, but uncustomary discipline has marked the nighttime restrictions put in place since August. Many say they are doing so to aid the crackdown against Islamists.

Mahmoud Ziad, a 23-year-old student who regularly takes part in protests of the coup, said he is haunted by seeing friends shot to death Aug. 14. He has other friends who used to oppose military rule but now support el-Sissi.

“I ask them how can they be happy after all those who were killed. How can they support the killer?” The other legacy is a seemingly constant state of rebellion. Residents always found ways around rules imposed by overbearing force and bureaucrats. Now they simply break them.

Double- and triple-parked cars clog the streets. Drivers blithely go the wrong way on one-way roads. Police, if they ever show up, are challenged with much bravado. “The line that separates freedom from criminal chaos has disappeared in Cairo,” said Mohammed Hashem, a veteran activist and publisher who transformed the city’s literary scene in the past decade with his patronage of young, experimental novelists.

In a city that was once extremely safe, crime has become more frequent. Ahmed Mokhles, a 32-year-old doctor, said a youth on a motorcycle snatched his $450 mobile phone out of his hand while he was talking on it. The motorcyclist was slowed down by traffic, and Mokhles nearly caught up with him. But two men on another motorcycle — accomplices, Mokhles believes — blocked him, and the thief escaped.

Everything can conspire to build up stress — a blazing hot day, rising prices, unmoving traffic, family woes. Allam Oudah, who earns $180 a month as a security guard and drives a taxi to make ends meet, described rushing his daughter to the hospital when she got diarrhea, not just for treatment but also because of mounting diaper costs if she wasn’t quickly cured.

When asked to turn on the air conditioning in the taxi, he broke into a sarcastic rant: “For 10 pounds, I’ll point all the fans at you. If that’s not enough, I’ll fan you myself.” Fadl, the satirist, said that despite its recent problems, there is a resilience in the city.

“Give Cairo a little respite from its troubles, and it will quickly regain its old spirit,” he said. Mustafa Ibrahim, a poet, noted the true meaning of the capital’s name — “al-Qahira” — Arabic for “the conquerer.”

“Cairo conquers its own residents as well as anyone who thinks he or she is bigger than the city,” he said. “Cairo can crush you, but it maintains its charm and spirit,” he said.

October 07, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Security forces and Islamist protesters clashed around the country Sunday, leaving 51 killed, as a national holiday celebrating the military turned to mayhem. Crowds from Egypt’s two rival camps — supporters of the ousted Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, and backers of the military that deposed him — poured into the streets and turned on each other.

Several neighborhoods of the capital, Cairo, resembled combat zones after street battles that raged for hours. Morsi supporters fired birdshot and threw firebombs at police who responded with gunshots and tear gas. Streets were left strewn with debris, and the air was thick with tear gas and smoke from burning fires, as the crack of gunfire rang out.

An Associated Press photographer saw nine bodies lying on the floor of a clinic in the Cairo district of Dokki, scene of some of the heaviest clashes. Most of the bodies had gunshot wounds to the head or chest.

Sunday’s death toll of 51 was the highest on a single day since Aug. 14 when security forces raided two sit-in protest camps by Morsi supporters, killing hundreds. Even as fighting continued in the streets, the military went ahead with lavish celebrations for the holiday marking the 40th anniversary of the start of the 1973 Mideast war with Israel.

In the evening, a concert was aired live on state TV from a military-run Cairo stadium where pop stars from Egypt, Lebanon and the Gulf sang anthems to the army and dancers twirled on stage before a cheering crowd. Military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, other top brass and interim President Adly Mansour attended the show.

“There are those who think the military can be broken,” el-Sissi said in an address at the concert. “You see the Pyramids? The military is like the pyramids, because the Egyptian people are on its side.”

The clashes were the latest chapter in the turmoil roiling the country since the ouster in February 2011 of autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The new violence is certain to set back efforts by the interim, military-backed government to revive the economy, especially the vital tourism sector, and bring order to the streets of Cairo, where crime and lawlessness have been rife.

Morsi was Egypt’s first civilian and first freely elected president, succeeding four since the early 1950s who hailed from a military background. But after a year in office, Morsi was faced by massive protests demanding his ouster, accusing his Muslim Brotherhood of taking over power — and on July 3, el-Sissi removed him.

The military is now back as the real source of power in Egypt, and state and independent media have been depicting it as the country’s savior — with growing calls for el-Sissi to run in the presidential election due early next year.

Sunday’s holiday was an opportunity for Egypt’s leaders to further fan the pro-military fervor sweeping the country since the coup. But the holiday was also a chance for Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies to show that they are surviving a fierce crackdown that has jailed more than 2,000 from their ranks since the coup.

Thousands of their backers held marches in various parts of Cairo, while at the same time crowds in support of the military took to the streets. In some cases, the two sides set upon each other, pelting each other with rocks and firebombs.

The Health Ministry reported 51 people killed nationwide, with at least 40 of them in Cairo, and more than 240 injured. The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police, said 423 Morsi supporters were detained across the nation.

“It is now crystal clear that the coup is a nightmare for Egypt and its people and is trying so hard to tear the fabric of this nation,” a coalition grouping the Brotherhood and its allies said in a statement.

“At the time when festivities are arranged for one section of the population, they call on Egyptians to dance on the dead bodies of their compatriots who oppose the coup,” it said, calling for a rally in Tahrir Square on Friday.

The scene of Sunday’s fighting in Cairo contrasted sharply with a carnival-like mood in the city’s central Tahrir Square, where thousands of supporters of the military waved Egyptian flags, blew whistles and touted posters of el-Sissi. Adding to the festivities, a military band in green jackets and off-white pants played, and men spun in whirling dervish-style dances.

Demonstrators distributed petitions demanding that el-Sissi run for president. “We cannot find a man who can run the country at this stage except for him (el-Sissi),” said aspiring actress Wafaa el-Sharqawi, who was distributing the el-Sissi petition in Tahrir. “Can we possibly have a civilian president who is weaker than his defense minister?”

Soldiers barricaded entrances to central Tahrir Square with barbed wire and armored personnel vehicles to guard it against possible attempts by Morsi supporters to enter the plaza, Egypt’s most prominent political stage since it was the epicenter of the anti-Mubarak uprising nearly three years ago.

Metal detectors were installed at the entrances and demonstrators pouring into the square were searched by troops. Army helicopters flew low over the square, with Egypt’s red, white and black flag trailing. Some two dozen F-16 jet-fighters staged a celebratory flight over Cairo in late morning, ushering in the commemoration of the 1973 war.

At 2 p.m. — the time the war began in 1973 — church bells tolled and chants of “Allahu akbar,” or “God is greatest,” blared from mosques in parts of Cairo. Still, not all in the square were enthused about the military.

Moamen Mahmoud, a 23-year-old student, was in Tahrir on Sunday and mused about the ironies of the shifting sands of Egypt’s politics in the past 2 ½ years. He said he took part in the 2011 uprising and in subsequent protests against the military’s direct rule of the country for some 17 months after Mubarak’s fall.

“I came here today because I cannot miss an occasion like this, but sadly the revolutionaries are no here. I was here once chanting against military rule and now look at this. We forgot the principles of the revolution,” he said.

“Those who criticized the Brotherhood supporters for hoisting Morsi posters are now doing the same with el-Sissi’s posters,” said Mahmoud Badawi, a 27-year-old university graduate who is opposed to the July 3 coup. “Throughout history, military rule is corrupt.”

The climax of the day’s festivities was the extravaganza at the military-owned stadium in the eastern part of Cairo, attended by el-Sissi and kicked off with a dazzling display of fireworks. El-Sissi’s predecessor, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, was among those attending the ceremony, making his first public appearance since Morsi removed him and his chief of staff, Sami Anan, in August last year. Tantawi served Hosni Mubarak as defense minister for 20 years and took over the reins of the country when his mentor was ousted in a 2011 uprising.

Anan, who has presidential ambitions, was not present. Also in attendance was Gihan Sadat, widow of the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, revered as the country’s 1973 war hero and the architect of his country’s peace treaty six years later.

Associated Press reporter Mariam Rizk and photographer Hassan Ammar contributed to this report.

December 11, 2013

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Lawyers for a leader of Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party sought Wednesday to have his death sentence thrown out after a late-night reprieve saved his life just hours before he was to be hanged.

Abdul Quader Mollah, convicted of war crimes during the nation’s war of independence against Pakistan in 1971, was due to be executed at a minute past midnight, but lawyers went to the home of Judge Syed Mahmud Hossain and secured a postponement.

The lawyers are trying to convince the Supreme Court to throw out the sentence in a case that could usher in a new wave of political violence ahead of national elections set for next month. After beginning to hear the case Wednesday, the Supreme Court adjourned until Thursday.

Mollah’s party, Jamaat-e-Islami, an ally of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, enforced a nationwide general strike on Wednesday and issued a statement warning of “dire consequences” if he were executed.

Hundreds of pro-government activists, meanwhile, blocked traffic on a main road in Dhaka demanding Mollah’s immediate execution. The developments come at a time of deep tension in Bangladesh, a nation struggling to overcome extreme poverty and rancorous politics.

Mollah would be the first person executed in special trials begun by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2010 of people suspected of crimes during the nation’s war of independence against Pakistan in 1971. The government says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the nine-month war.

Most of the defendants in the trials are opposition members. Mollah’s party and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party say the trials are an attempt to weaken the opposition and eliminate Islamic parties. International human rights groups have also raised questions about the impartiality of the tribunal. Authorities have denied the allegations.

Deadly clashes have followed court verdicts against six other current and former officials of Mollah’s party, and extra police are stationed in the capital to head off any new violence. Paramilitary guards are on standby across the country as well.

Carrying out the execution would complicate an already critical political situation in Bangladesh, where the opposition has carried out violent protests for weeks to back a demand for an independent caretaker government to oversee the general elections early next year.

The government has rejected that demand and said a political government headed by Hasina would conduct the elections. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke by phone with Hasina “to express his strong concern about the prevailing situation in the country,” a statement from his office said Wednesday.

It said Ban urged Hasina to “resolve differences” over the upcoming elections with dialogue. The election is set for Jan. 5, but the opposition alliance led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia plans to boycott it. Weeks of blockades and general strikes have left nearly 100 people dead since October. Mollah’s party has been banned by the Election Commission from taking part in the elections.

Mollah’s family had met him at a Dhaka jail on Tuesday for what was expected to be the last time. As authorities finalized the time for the execution, many cellphone users in Bangladesh received text messages from an unknown number that said if Mollah was executed a civil war could break out. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said it is trying to determine who sent the messages.

Defense counsel Sazzad Ali Chowdhury said the postponement late Tuesday gave lawyers time to file the petition which the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division was reviewing Wednesday. Mollah was found guilty by the special tribunal in February of killing a student and a family of 11 and of aiding Pakistani troops in killing 369 others during the independence war. He was sentenced to life in prison. The Supreme Court changed the penalty to a death sentence in September, triggering deadly clashes and a nationwide general strike.

Until it gained independence in 1971, Bangladesh was the eastern wing of Pakistan. Mollah’s party campaigned against Bangladesh’s independence and has been accused of forming several groups to help Pakistani troops in killing, rape and arson.

Associated Press writer Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed.