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Brotherhood supporters hit the streets as army vows to confront violence

Published time: August 18, 2013 12:13
Edited time: August 18, 2013 17:55
Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi hold up posters of him during a protest along Zahara street in Cairo August 18, 2013. (Reuters / Louafi Larbi)

Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi hold up posters of him during a protest along Zahara street in Cairo August 18, 2013. (Reuters / Louafi Larbi)

Muslim Brotherhood supporters took to the streets of Egypt, despite reports that Sunday protests were called off. The army said it will not tolerate violence amid news that thousands of Morsi loyalists were allegedly arrested and facing terrorism charges.

Several marches of supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi kicked off on Sunday evening in Cairo districts, media reports stated. The number of people taking part was not immediately clear, but they were all said to be heading to the Constitutional Court.

Hundreds of Brotherhood supporters could be also seen marching in Giza, located some 20 kilometers from Cairo. According to reports, the demonstrators are headed to the capital to join others.

Conflicting reports said that the Brotherhood canceled its Sunday rallies, including the march to the the Constitutional Court, due to security concerns. Brotherhood officials, quoted by Al Jazeera, said they were calling off their planned protest marches due to “the presence of army snipers on buildings along the routes.” 

AFP also quoted spokeswoman for the Brotherhood-led Anti-Coup Coalition, Yasmine Adel, who said that only “several” Cairo marches were canceled, while the others are still taking place.

The rally was planned as the first in a series of daily protests in response to this week’s violent crackdown on Brotherhood sit-ins, which resulted in more than 700 deaths. The Islamist group has dubbed the action the “The Putschists’ Departure week.”

Meanwhile, Egyptian Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday warned that the military would not tolerate further violence, and called on the Muslim Brotherhood to join the political process, according to a statement posted on the Army’s Facebook page.

Prosecutors are investigating some 250 Brotherhood supporters on charges of murder, attempted murder and terrorism, state MENA news agency reported.

Egypt’s security forces have arrested 3,500 supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi since August 14, Ahram Online cited Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Mustafa El-Demeery as saying. El-Demeery said about 2,000 Morsi loyalists were arrested during the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda sit-ins on Wednesday. Some 1,500 more were arrested during clashes between Morsi supporters, security forces and downtown Cairo residents in and around Ramses Square on Friday, the lawyer said.

The continued detention of more than 400 Morsi loyalists arrested during the Ramses Square clashes has already been ordered by prosecutors, according to Ahram Online. The rest of the detained are reportedly being questioned.

"There will be no reconciliation with those whose hands have been stained with blood and who turned weapons against the state and its institutions,” Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi told reporters earlier on Saturday. 

79 people died and 549 were wounded in Saturday violence across Egypt, the state news agency cited the Egyptian government as saying.

El-Beblawi has also put forward a proposal to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood and prohibit the movement in the country, labeling it a terrorist group and accusing the Brotherhood of provoking the bloodshed.

The Egyptian State Information Service accused the Muslim Brotherhood of having links with Al-Qaeda, and blamed Western media for biased coverage of events in Egypt. 

Egypt is feeling severe bitterness towards some Western media coverage that is biased toward the Muslim Brotherhood, and [fails to] shed light on violence and terrorist acts perpetrated by this group in the form of intimidation operations and terrorizing citizens. Let alone the killing of innocent people and setting churches and public and private property on fire, along with storming police stations and blocking roads and all other forms of thuggery and sabotage,” the information service said in a statement. 

Handouts at a Sunday press conference left no room for interpretation of the new government’s vision of this week’s actions by the military. 

Ahmed Hawary, of Egypt's Constitution Party, told RT that had witnessed the Muslim Brotherhood’s aggression on the streets. 

[Their protests] were not peaceful at all,” Hawary said. “The sit-in in Rabaa continually spread out marches to the surrounding neighborhoods, where a lot of militants were shooting at any crowd, any civilians in the streets who were anti-Morsi or anti-Muslim Brotherhood. I was also caught in the crossfire when the Muslim Brotherhood were shooting at civilians on Tahrir Square for three hours.”

Demonstrators in support of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi wait by the barricaded door inside al-Fath mosque at Ramses Square in Cairo August 17, 2013. (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Pro-Morsi supporters see the events of the last few days in Egypt in a completely different light. Dr. Saad Amer, a member of the Egyptian Forum in the UK, told RT that what was happening in Egypt was nothing short of a severe crackdown on peaceful protesters. 

It’s an attack of the system against innocent peaceful demonstrations,” Amer said. “This is not violence in the street. These are not clashes. These are people committing massacres against innocent people. And then they were portrayed as they weren’t, because they have the media and they have just been telling lies all the time. There are tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of peaceful people on the streets. We can’t see anyone with any weapon among these women, children families from all parts of Egypt. Those who organize those demonstrations have declared clearly, that they are peaceful.” 

Despite the accusations brought by the Egyptian government against the Muslim Brotherhood, Western governments are not describing it as a terrorist organization, and have called on the Egyptian government to return to dialogue with the group. 

We regret deeply that international efforts and proposals for building bridges and establishing an inclusive political process, to which the EU contributed actively, were set aside and a course of confrontation was instead pursued,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said in a joint statement. “This path will not succeed. It is crucial that violence ends immediately.” 

The leaders of the 28-member bloc announced that the EU would urgently review its relations with Egypt. They have called for an immediate halt to violence in the country, for the resumption of political dialogue and a return to democratic rule. 

A plain clothes policeman (upper left) points his gun as security forces escort Muslim Brotherhood members through supporters of the interim government installed by the army from the al-Fath mosque on Ramses Square in Cairo August 17, 2013. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he feared Egypt might be on the brink of a civil war. 

In its way of dealing with the opposition, the Egyptian government must now be cautious and find a solution to de-escalate the situation. There is no alternative to bilateral talks,” he said, Euronews reported. 

The EU has an emergency meeting scheduled for Monday, where leaders of the member states will discuss the possibility of suspending 1 billion euro in aid to Cairo. 

Earlier this week US President Barack Obama cancelled joint US-Egypt military drills scheduled to take place in September, following Wednesday’s crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters. 

What has so far remained in place, though, is $1.3 billion of aid to the country’s military. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks on churches, hospitals, and other public facilities in Egypt, calling on both sides of the conflict “to adopt a credible plan to contain the violence and revive the political process hijacked by violence.” 

Ban added: "With such sharp polarization in Egyptian society, both the authorities and the political leaders share the responsibility for ending the current violence."

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