Egypt was braced for further demonstrations on Friday as Islamist allies of ousted president Mohammed Morsi prepared to hold mass protests to express their outrage at his overthrow by the army and reject the country’s new interim government.
Egypt was braced for further demonstrations on Friday as the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement called for a "day of rejection” after the army overthrew the country’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, imposing a new interim government.
Morsi supporters were expected to turn out in force following Friday prayers to express their outrage at his ousting, after which several leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the group’s supreme leader Mohammed Badie, were detained.
State prosecutors announced on Thursday that Morsi, who is in military custody, would face an investigation starting next week into claims that he had "insulted the judiciary".
Television channels owned by or seen as sympathetic to the Brotherhood were unceremoniously taken off air and the state printer did not run off its party newspaper.
Friday's protests have raised fears of continued violence in Egypt, after 80 people were wounded in clashes in Morsi’s home city of Zagazig on Thursday, and militant attacks were reported in the Sinai peninsula, near Israel. Political strife in Egypt has claimed the lives of several dozen people across the country during the past month alone.
“Egypt is bracing for what could possibly be a tense confrontation between pro-Morsi supporters and security officials,” FRANCE 24’s Gallagher Fenwick reported from Cairo. “Soldiers have already started amassing columns of armoured vehicles and men, right near different places where pro-Morsi supporters are going to be gathered this Friday, not just in the capital but in other villages and towns around the country.”
World powers, in particular the United States, will be watching closely to see how the army chooses to handle the demonstrations. Morsi’s overthrow on Wednesday raised concerns within the international community, with the US reviewing the $1.5 billion in military and humanitarian aid it gives Egypt each year.
“We will continue to secure the places of protest with troops, and jets if necessary, to make sure the pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators don’t confront each other. We will let them demonstrate and go where they want,” a military source said.
Egypt’s armed forces issued a late-night statement guaranteeing rights to protest and free expression and pledging not to pursue arbitrary measures against any political group.
The United States, which gives Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid each year, has voiced concern for human rights, but also for the stability of the biggest Arab nation. Egypt’s peace with Israel and control of the Suez Canal give it a strategic importance for many beyond its 84 million people.
Washington, along with Middle Eastern allies from Israel to Saudi Arabia, are not lamenting the Brotherhood’s stunning reversal. The organisation has long represented many Arabs’ hopes for a better society but was found gravely wanting during Morsi’s year of missteps and rancorous division.
The White House has thus far avoided describing Morsi’s ouster as a “coup”, a distinction that could trigger legal US obstacles to aid. Some on Obama’s national security team had contacted Egyptian officials “to convey the importance of a quick and responsible return of full authority to a democratically elected civilian government”, it said.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Egyptian military command said, “Wisdom, true nationalism and constructive human values that all religions have called for, require us now to avoid taking any exceptional or arbitrary measures against any faction or political current.”
That appeared to be a response to concern internationally that, following Morsi’s overthrow, there was a campaign of arrest and intimidation against the Brotherhood.
Egypt’s caretaker Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said that US Secretary of State John Kerry had expressed concern during a telephone call on Thursday for human rights.
“He was worried about the status of human rights,” Amr said. “Understandably. I assured him there is no retribution, no acts of vengeance, that nobody will be treated outside the law.”
Those were also sentiments expressed by Adli Mansour, the country’s new interim leader. But a senior Brotherhood official said it would not work with “the usurper authorities”.
Another of its politicians said Morsi’s overthrow would push other groups, though not his own, to violent resistance.
The armed forces’ statement also contained a warning to those Islamists planning to demonstrate on Friday.
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“Peaceful protest and freedom of expression are rights guaranteed to everyone, which Egyptians have earned as one of the most important gains of their glorious revolution,” it said in reference to the downfall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, a key US ally, in 2011.
“Excessive use of this right without reason could carry some negative implications, including blocking roads, delaying public benefits and destroying institutions, posing a threat to social peace, the national interest and damaging the security and economy in our precious Egypt,” the statement said.
Washington has been urging Egyptian leaders to resolve their differences quickly so that unrest which has sapped tourist revenue and investment ends and the economy can recover.
The Brotherhood renounced violence decades ago. Even among its allies who were engaged in armed struggle against Mubarak in the 1990s and beyond, there seems little appetite to resume it.
But Egypt does have troubles with militancy, not least in the largely empty Sinai peninsula, where radical Islamists with links to al Qaeda have become more active since Mubarak fell.
Early on Friday, security sources and state television said Islamist gunmen opened fire on El-Arish airport, close to the border with the Gaza Strip and Israel and at three military checkpoints. A police station in Rafah on the Gaza border was hit by rockets, wounding several soldiers.
It was not clear whether the coordinated attack on several army positions was in response to Morsi’s overthrow.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-07-05