x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Morsi loyalists renew protests against Egyptian army

Muslim Brotherhood claims six people were killed in marches in Giza and Port Said while earlier in the day a civilian and a policeman were killed in a drive-by shooting.

A supporter of Mohammed Morsi chants slogans against the Egyptian army during a march following Friday prayers at Nasr City in Cairo.
A supporter of Mohammed Morsi chants slogans against the Egyptian army during a march following Friday prayers at Nasr City in Cairo.

CAIRO // Thousands of people demonstrated against the military-backed government across Egypt on Friday, in rallies that were smaller than similar ones earlier in the month, but still defiant and in some cases violent.

According to the Muslim Brotherhood, the dominant force behind the rallies, six people were killed in marches in Giza and Port Said. It was not possible to confirm the numbers immediately.

The largest march in Cairo gathered in the Nasr City area where, earlier in the day, a civilian and a policeman were killed in a drive-by shooting at a police station, state media reported.

Despite heavy security across the capital, marches also took place in the upscale Maadi neighbourhood, in working-class Imbaba and in the central Mohendisseen area, where there have been clashes between Islamists and security forces in the last week.

The marchers chanted for the return of the Brotherhood-backed president Mohammed Morsi, now deposed by the army and held on charges including escaping from prison in 2011.

After a tumultuous two months, in which more than 1,000 people have died, a crackdown by the military and police on the Brotherhood has produced a lull in their demonstrations and activities.

The leadership of the movement, including its supreme guide Mohamed Badie, is jailed and facing criminal charges, as are thousands more rank-and-file members and sympathisers.

On Thursday, police arrested another top Brotherhood official, Mohamed Al Beltagy, who is the secretary general of its Freedom and Justice Party.

Pictures of Mr Al Beltagy, whose 17-year-old daughter Asmaa was killed in the crackdown on a sit-in earlier in the month, circulated online. He looked dishevelled as police in balaclavas made victory signs around him.

Earlier in the day, he had featured in an Al Jazeera broadcast condemning the July 3 military removal of Mr Morsi as a coup, and calling for demonstrations. He insisted that the Brotherhood does not involve itself in terrorism, as the new authorities have repeatedly alleged.

But despite the crippling loss of the group's leadership, crowds are still gathering every Friday to demonstrate. A defiant statement from the Brotherhood said that there remains "a continuing scene of civilised and dignified protest that is, in fact, escalating day by day, throughout the nation, thus befuddling the putschists' heinous plots."

Thousands gathered in the Nasr City area of Cairo, near the Rabia Al AdawIyya mosque, where the July 14 clear-out of the sit-in resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Footage from the protest showed demonstrators holding up yellow posters depicting a hand with four fingers – a reference to the name of the mosque. The protesters called for the fall of the “assassin,” in reference to military chief Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

The country is still in a state of emergency, which has expanded the rights of security forces to detain people without charge.

The capital is still dotted with checkpoints, especially after dark, and last night, a 9pm curfew was tightened once more to 7pm

afordham@thenational.ae