News Column

Morsi Backers Pack Cairo, Defy Warnings

August 2, 2013

Ramadan Al-Fatash and Pol O Gradaigh, dpa

Thousands of Mohammed Morsi's supporters Friday flocked to a large vigil in Cairo, defying a police warning to clear their sit-ins demanding their ousted president be reinstated.

Supporters of the toppled president began a new sit-in at a third location near Cairo airport.

Dozens more tried to storm Media City, a complex on the outskirts of Cairo housing television broadcasters. Police fired tear gas to disperse the angry crowd.

Hundreds thronging the area of Rabaa al-Adawiya in north-eastern Cairo carried Morsi's pictures and the national flag as they chanted: "Listen Sissi, Morsi is my president."

They were referring to army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi who led the Islamist leader's overthrow on July 3.

"We stay peacefully. We are not going to resist. And if you risk your life, it's for the sake of democracy," said Mohamed Megali, 62-year-old Morsi supporter in Rabaa al-Adawiya.

"Egypt is great, it has its place in the world, but it has no value under the shadow of military rule," said Megali, a native of the Nile Delta province of Dakhaliya.

Islamist worshippers marched from mosques in Cairo after noon prayers and headed to Rabaa al-Adawiya, where thousands of Morsi's backers have camped out for weeks.

Police on Thursday ordered them to leave two large sit-ins - in Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda Square south of the capital - promising them safe exit.

"Even if the coup plotters use heavy weapons against us, our peacefulness is stronger than their weapons," Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Badie said, calling for massive rallies across the country to condemn the army's toppling of Morsi.

The Islamist group's followers have set up more barricades around the sites, using sandbags and stones, fearing a security crackdown.

The police set no specific date for breaking up the sit-ins.

State television reported that security forces will blockade the Islamists' main protest camp to prevent people from entering the square and will only allow protesters to leave.

However, a security source denied the report.

Local and international human rights groups have warned that using force to disperse the protesters will result in high casualties.

More than 200 people, mainly Muslim Brotherhood followers, have been killed since Morsi's toppling, which came after millions took to the streets demanding he step down and call for early presidential elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood criticized US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was quoted as saying that the army was restoring democracy when it removed Morsi.

"Is it the job of the army to restore democracy?" said spokesman Gehad El-Hadad.

"In fact, we believe that the US administration is complicit in the military coup as they did before through supporting the Mubarak dictatorship regime," said El-Hadad, referring to Hosny Mubarak, who was forced to step down in a 2011 uprising.

Kerry told Pakistani broadcaster Geo TV: "The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descent into chaos, into violence."

"And the military did not take over, to the best of our judgement - so far. To run the country, there's a civilian government. In effect, they were restoring democracy," he said.

The top US diplomat tried to clarify his remarks after meeting with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in London.

"The last thing that we want is more violence. The temporary government has a responsibility with respect to demonstrators to give them the space to be able to demonstrate in peace. But at the same time, the demonstrators have a responsibility not to stop everything from proceeding in Egypt," Kerry said.

US deputy secretary of state William Burns arrived in Egypt Friday for his second visit in less than two weeks.

Burns was to meet interim president Adly Mansour and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, sources said.

The Brotherhood has repeatedly condemned as a coup the removal of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, and vowed to continue protesting until he is restored to office.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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