Top Brotherhood Leaders Slapped With Arrest Warrants

CAIRO — On Wednesday, Egypt's prosecutor's office issued arrest warrants for Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide Mohammed Badie and nine other top officials in the movement. The officials are accused of inciting violence at the Republican Guard headquarters on Monday, when at least 51 people were killed, the vast majority of them supporters of former President Mohamed Morsy.

"It's political," said Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad. "The state and all its institutions are complicit in coming out with this decision. The judiciary is complicit in obeying orders [from political powers]."

The arrest warrants are just the latest sign that a rapprochement with the Muslim Brotherhood is further away than ever before. As Egypt's government moves quickly to put key figures in place, it seemed to be sending the message that the state would hold the Brotherhood responsible for any violence in this transitional period.

The new government is still in the process of being formed. A new prosecutor general, Hesham Barakat, was appointed shortly before the arrest warrants were issued. And on Tuesday, President Adly Mansour tapped Hazem el-Beblawi, an economist who previously served as finance minister, as prime minister. Beblawi has argued that the government must move quickly to cut Egypt's bloated subsidy programs for energy and food -- a position that, if he follows through on it, could galvanize protests against the new government.

Badie made a surprise appearance at the pro-Morsy sit-in outside the Rabaa al-Adaweya mosque on Friday, after widespread news reports that he had been arrested. "We will sacrifice ourselves, our souls and our blood, for President Morsy," he said in a fiery speech to the assembled crowd.

Such statements aside, it's not clear if the Brotherhood leaders could have avoided these arrest warrants had the bloodshed at the Republican Guard headquarters not occurred. Prosecutors were already investigating the movement's top officials for inciting violence at their Cairo headquarters, when Brotherhood members shot at protesters trying to storm the building. Egyptian security forces are also looking into top Brotherhood officials' involvement in a 2011 prison break, and had slapped a travel ban on them while the investigation is underway.

The arrest warrants could also increase the pressure on the Brotherhood protest at Rabaa al-Adaweya. Top Brotherhood officials go in and out of the sit-in frequently, and should they stay there to evade arrest, it could exacerbate an already tense situation. Haddad said that his group had heard rumors of efforts to break up the sit-in, but that the Brotherhood had no choice but to wait and see what the security forces would do.

"We're facing the consequences of our choices [to oppose the new government]," he said. "And they will have to face the consequences of their choices too, in subverting the revolution in this way."



'Loco,' Colombia's Last Drug Lord, Extradited to New York

Late Tuesday, U.S. officials announced the extradition of Colombian drug kingpin Daniel "Loco" Barrera Barrera to New York City, where he will face the first of three arraignments in the Southern District of New York on Wednesday on charges that include conspiring to launder money and import cocaine to the United States -- counts that, taken together, could land him in jail for the rest of his life.

The indictments against Barrera (the first of which is included below) are searing, alleging that since 1998 El Loco ("the crazy one," a.k.a. "Arnoldo" or "Germán") has worked intimately with two terrorist organizations (Colombia's left-wing FARC and right-wing, now-defunct AUC) and presided over a Colombia-based cocaine manufacturing and trafficking syndicate that produces just under 800,000 pounds of the drug each year. That's roughly the maximum takeoff weight of your typical Boeing 747.

"If any one case epitomizes the nexus between terrorism and drug trafficking and the destructive impact on Colombian society, this is it," NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in the government's statement on Tuesday. 

Barrera, hailed as the "last of the great capos" in Colombia's bloody and protracted drug war, was captured while using a payphone in Venezuela last year and subsequently sent back to Colombia -- as part of a dramatic 45-day operation involving American, British, Colombian, and Venezuelan authorities, including the CIA and MI6. Reports noted that Barrera, now 51, had undergone plastic surgery and burnt his fingertips to disguise himself. At the time, Venezuela's improbable cooperation with the United States was chalked up to Hugo Chávez's desire to burnish his anti-crime credentials -- especially in light of American accusations that Venezuela was not doing enough to combat drug trafficking.

Barrera, a skilled middleman who got his start in the drug trade in the 1980s and earned his nickname for ruthlessly avenging his brother's murder, has been awaiting extradition in a Colombian jail ever since, as authorities laid claim to his vast assets. As InSight Crime notes, El Loco is the "closest thing Colombia has to a modern Pablo Escobar." The difference? Escobar never landed in a New York City courtroom. Like Escobar used to say, "Better a grave in Colombia than a prison in the United States."  

US v. Daniel Barrera Barrera SDNY Indictment-1 by Uri Friedman