x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Thousands rally in Cairo over the removal of Morsi

The show of support was intended as a rebuttal to calls from the interim president, Adly Mansour, a former head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, for Egyptians to accept Mohammed Morsi's removal from power and move towards elections.

Egyptian army soldiers block Salah Salem highway to prevent supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood from crossing.
Egyptian army soldiers block Salah Salem highway to prevent supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood from crossing.

CAIRO // The Muslim Brotherhood rallied tens of thousands of people into the streets of the Egyptian capital yesterday to protest against the military-led removal of the former president, Mohammed Morsi.

The show of support was intended as a rebuttal to calls from the interim president, Adly Mansour, a former head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, for Egyptians to accept Mr Morsi's removal from power and move towards elections.

Mr Mansour, in his first public address, warned that some "want this period to be an introduction to violence and blood, and we want it to establish the concept of protecting lives and human rights".

He did not say who was "pushing the nation towards the abyss thinking they are doing good" during his eight-minute, pre-recorded broadcast on Thursday, but there was little doubt he was referring to the continuing sit-ins and demonstrations by supporters of Mr Morsi, who is being held under house arrest by the military.

"We will go through the battle for security to the end," Mr Mansour said. "We will preserve the revolution ... History will not turn around."

Despite the arrests of senior Brotherhood leaders and violent attacks on their members - including an incident this month when 51 people were killed - supporters of the former president have managed to dig in for a long political battle.

One official last week called for ovens to be brought to a square near the Rabaa Adaweya mosque to prepare food for Eid Al Fitr, which is still two weeks away.

The protests, which blocked thoroughfares and sparked clashes with police, are a major obstacle for the new government as it seeks to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections in the months ahead.

Mr Mansour has called for the Brotherhood to take part in his interim government and "reconcile" with the new political reality, but the group has refused to negotiate because it considers his authority "illegitimate".

Gehad El Haddad, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, said yesterday that the continued protests were not about Mr Morsi but aimed at persuading Egyptians to reverse the "military coup" that had robbed Egypt of its democracy and put the country on a path back to autocracy.

More than 30 marches were held across Cairo yesterday, according to the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.

"Today is not about Morsi but about free will and the right of people to freely choose through democracy, not through compulsion by military coup," he wrote on Twitter.

The refusal of the Brotherhood and its supporters to back down has left the interim government and its security forces in a difficult position.

If it seeks to clear the sit-ins by force, it risks more deaths of citizens and greater international pressure from foreign governments already uneasy about the detentions of Mr Morsi, several of his aides and many of the Brotherhood's leadership.

The air force yesterday sent two formations of fighter jets and groups of helicopter gunships over Cairo and Alexandria, casting an ominous mood as protesters chanted "Islamic, Islamic" in Rabaa Adaweya square.

The military insisted it was forced to remove Mr Morsi because of widespread discontent about his leadership.

The announcement that he had been deposed came after millions of people marked the one-year anniversary of his inauguration by pouring into the streets to demonstrate against him.

 

bhope@thenational.ae