News Column

2 Dead, 444 Injured in Egypt Protests Against Morsi Decree

Nov. 26, 2012

Two people died in demonstrations over Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's decree of sweeping new powers for himself, the Health Ministry said Monday.

Another 444 people were injured in the clashes between Morsi's opponents and supporters, authorities said.

Morsi, who headed the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party before becoming Egypt's first elected president, decreed last week that all his decisions and laws are immune to legal challenge and barred courts from dissolving the constituent assembly drafting the country's new constitution.

During a meeting late Monday with Egypt's top judges to try to defuse the crisis, Morsi stressed his "keenness to the independence of the judicial authorities," presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said.

Ali told reporters after the meeting that Morsi assured the judges that the decrees were not aimed at "infringing" the judiciary. He said that the president clarified to the judges that any irrevocable decisions apply only to issues related "to his sovereign powers."

The spokesman said that there were "no amendments made to the constitutional declaration."

The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups postponed a mass protest called for Tuesday in Cairo in the interest of preventing violence, Egyptian state media reported.

Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy, a leading figure in the protests against Morsi, told dpa that there can be no deal on Egypt's political crisis until the president withdraws his constitutional decree.

"We're prepared, not for negotiations, but to build the nation together," Sabahy said. "But first of all, this weapon called the constitutional declaration must be withdrawn. ... (President Morsi) must know that we will not permit a dictatorship."

The leftist Sabahy spoke after a meeting between the National Salvation Front, formed by secularist politicians after Morsi issued his decrees, and media figures.

Arab media said earlier that the Egyptian court would meet December 4 to examine the legality of the decree and said that more than 12 lawsuits had been filed against it.

A 15-year-old, identified as a Muslim Brotherhood member, was killed and 60 people injured in an attack late Sunday in the Nile Delta city of Damanhour on an office of the movement, which supports Morsi.

There were no details about the second death.

Hundreds of Egyptians on Monday filled Tahrir Square as they took part in a funeral procession of a man killed last week in clashes between police forces and protesters on the anniversary of clashes that took place last year in central Cairo.

Protesters began a sit-in in Tahrir Square three days ago and are planning a mass demonstration on Tuesday to protest Morsi's decree.

The US embassy, located just south of Tahrir Square, announced that it would close its visa and services offices Tuesday due to "the security situation in the vicinity."

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland characterized the situation as "a very unclear political environment" as Egypt tries to draft a constitution.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke Monday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr, reiterating a weekend statement that the US wants to see the constitutional process move forward in a way that avoids overly concentrating power.

"We want to ensure that as this governance situation goes forward, that the rights ... of all Egyptians are protected, that there is a balance of power, that there are checks and balances in the system," she said at a briefing in Washington.

Discussions are ongoing among a number of stakeholders, and Morsi has consulted various groups including with the judiciary, all of which the US had called for, Nuland said.

She declined to link democratic progress in Egypt directly to economic support, including a loan now being considered by the International Monetary Fund, and aid pending in Congress. Nuland said the Obama administration has been clear that pledged money should go forward, but "everybody's watching, now, that this current set of issues has a democratic resolution."

White House spokesman Jay Carney expressed concerns about Morsi's decree, stressing the need for democratic principles and power not to be too concentrated with any one individual, even as he praised Morsi for his role in a Gaza ceasefire.

"Our interest in the development and transition to democracy in Egypt is one that reflects what the Egyptian people demanded through their revolution and continue to demand, which is a government that reflects the will of the people," Carney said.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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