x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Islamists urge a million to march in Egypt

Islamist coalition calls for a million people to rally across Egypt in defiance of government warnings to end their protests. Alice Fordham reports from Cairo

Supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi attend a protest near Rabaa Al Adawiya mosque in Cairo. The interim government intends to clear the sit-ins where Mr Morsi’s supporters have been demonstrating.
Supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi attend a protest near Rabaa Al Adawiya mosque in Cairo. The interim government intends to clear the sit-ins where Mr Morsi’s supporters have been demonstrating.

CAIRO // An Islamist coalition called yesterday for a million people to rally across Egypt today in defiance of government pledges to end their protests.

The rally was called by an alliance dominated by the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has protested for nearly a month against the removal of the Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

The say they will march in honour of at least 80 "martyrs" killed in a security crackdown in the early hours of Saturday at the Rabaa Al Adaweya mosque in Cairo, where supporters of the former president have gathered since his removal.

The alliance also announced plans for late-night marches carrying coffins to security administration buildings.

The plans clashed with repeated warnings by the authorities that the demonstrators must not overstep the bounds of peaceful protest.

The interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who was appointed by Mr Morsi, said at the weekend that the government intended to clear the sit-ins where the former president's supporters have demonstrated for nearly a month.

The National Defence Committee, which includes the president Adly Mansour and deputy prime minster and defence minister Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi, said protesters would face "decisive and firm decisions and actions in response to any violations".

Military helicopters dropped flyers on the demonstrators yesterday urging them "not to approach military facilities or units, help us to protect your safety". The interior ministry and army have blamed recent violence on provocation by Islamist demonstrators.

A total of 25 policemen have been killed in the nationwide violence since demonstrations against the former government began on June 28. The interior ministry also said that 480 police have been injured.

A coalition of Egyptian human rights groups yesterday condemned violence both by the security forces and by Islamists led by the Brotherhood. In an open letter, the groups called the events of Saturday a massacre but said the interior minister should also be held accountable for abuses committed during Mr Morsi's tenure.

"The Egyptian security forces' recurrent use of excessive, lethal violence in the face of political protest will only exacerbate the political ills that led Egyptian society to rebel," the groups said. Under the rule of Mr Morsi, it alleged, members of the Brotherhood tortured people in a mosque near the presidential palace, and attacked and killed peaceful protesters.

"If the current violent political polarisation continues amid the continued absence of political will to achieve justice," the letter said, "Egyptians can hope for nothing more than that future massacres reap fewer victims."

Amid growing international concern about the bloodshed, the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton yesterday made her second visit to the country this month. A statement in advance of her trip deplored the use of violence and urged restraint.

Vice president and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who said at the weekend that the use of force to curb demonstrations was excessive, told Baroness Ashton that the government was trying to "reach a peaceful way out of the current crisis, that preserves the blood of all Egyptians".

Ms Ashton also met Brotherhood leaders. Previously, some members of the Brotherhood have said that they would consider mediation by the EU. The group has refused to deal with a transitional government set up under military auspices, which it says is not legitimate.

Hundreds of members of Islamist groups, demonstrators and several key leaders have been arrested since the Brotherhood-dominated government was ousted on July 3. Mr Morsi has been detained. Fellow Islamists Abul-Ela Madi and Essam Soltan, Wasat party members who were wanted in connection with charges of inciting violence, were arrested yesterday after they were found hiding in a house in Cairo.

afordham@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Reuters

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