Egypt’s first democratically elected president was overthrown on 3 July after mass protests. Since then he’s not been heard from. He is being held, Egypt’s military insists, in a “safe place” – even if it won’t say where. No charges have been filed, although it’s been suggested that Morsi could be charged with “conspiracy with foreign actors” or “insulting the judiciary”. These circumstances, says Amnesty International, are tantamount to “enforced disappearance”.The mystery over Morsi’s whereabouts and fate comes amid new evidence that Egypt’s generals are planning a wider crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.On Wednesday army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi called for nationwide rallies on Friday to give the military a mandate to confront what he called “violence and terrorism” – not much of a code for those who have been protesting against Morsi’s detention and this month’s army-backed coup.You don’t have to approve of what Morsi represented in his year in office – the democratic and other failings of his government – to be concerned over the legal basis of his arrest and that of his key aides. What little is known about his whereabouts is based on hints supplied in calls made by other detained aides to family members suggesting they are being held together at an army base somewhere.The disappearance of Morsi is part and parcel of a continuing systemic failure of Egypt’s politics and institutions since the revolution that removed Hosni Mubarak. And without clear mechanisms and strong and legally valid institutions, each group that has tried to exercise power in the recent period has subverted the courts and rule of law to its own ends – including Morsi himself through his extra-legal November decree which put his acts beyond judicial review. First it was the army in alliance with the Brotherhood, then the Brotherhood alone, and now it is the army in alliance with the coalition of forces ranged against the Brotherhood.But while Morsi may have exacerbated Egypt’s political crisis, claiming his victory at the ballot box as justification for his pursuit of a disastrous and increasingly unpopular agenda, holding him incommunicado only makes Egypt’s crisis more fraught in the long run. Morsi represents a wide constituency. His detention, as Khalil al-Anani, a Middle East scholar at Durham University, argued forcefully earlier this month , far from persuading the wider Brotherhood to acquiesce, is likely to be counterproductive.“During crisis time,” he wrote, “the Muslim Brotherhood as a social and ideological movement tends to turn inward in order to maintain its unity and solidarity of members. It invokes tribulation – or “mehna” – as a shield to protect the movement from divisions and splits. Indeed, it is the only way the Muslim Brotherhood could survive the current crisis.”The reality is that the release of Morsi and other senior Muslim Brotherhood figures – as demanded by the EU last week – should be a question of political self-interest in pursuit of stability (as well as justice) for those now claiming to govern Egypt. For if one of the lessons of the past year is that Morsi and the Brotherhood could not lead Egypt alone if they alienated other key actors in the country’s post-revolutionary political landscape, it should be evident that the opposite holds equally true.Indeed, only two months before 3 July, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre suggested that, while Egyptians were deeply pessimistic about the issues – from law and order to the economy – and were increasingly unhappy about the way their new democracy was functioning, the Brotherhood itself was still regarded positively by a large majority.And the alternative, in any case, is what? Already the fact of Morsi’s detention, some anecdotal evidence suggests, has attracted some to Muslim Brotherhood-organised protests who might once have been more ambivalent.The detention of Morsi – and a crackdown on the Brotherhood – cannot bring genuine stability. Nor can a political process be allowed to be directed by the generals who have, thus far, served their own interests in their changing alliances. The lesson from successful reconciliation processes – including South Africa and Northern Ireland – is that it requires a wide level of inclusion in any dialogue. All of which requires de-escalation and Morsi’s release.