Tens of thousands of supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi gathered yesterday vowing to keep fighting for his reinstatement, as rival rallies defending his overthrow underlined Egypt’s bitter divisions.
The rallies come as Germany called for the release of Morsi, who is being held in a “safe place, for his safety” and has not yet been charged, according to the German foreign ministry.
“We call for an end to the restrictions on Morsi’s whereabouts,” a German foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.
With an Egyptian flag in one hand and a Koran in the other, protesters gathered outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo’s Nasr City neighborhood chanted against the military and pledged allegiance to Morsi.
“We will continue to resist. We will stay one or two months, or even one or two years. We won’t leave until our president, Mohamed Morsi, comes back,” Islamist leader Safwat Hegazi told the crowd.
Hegazi laid down their demands as the reinstatement of Egypt’s first freely elected president, immediate parliamentary elections and a committee to oversee a plan for national reconciliation.
However, despite the large turnout and defiant mood, the gathering has been increasingly out of step with political developments as the interim authorities pressed ahead with formation of a new government and Gulf states stepped in to help support the faltering economy.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the influential Islamist group from which Morsi emerged, is now in tatters with much of its leadership detained, on the run or keeping a low profile following Morsi’s July 3 overthrow by the military.
Pro-Morsi protesters arrived from across the country to join hundreds already camped out at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.
The anti-Morsi camp had also called for huge rallies after yesterday’s prayers, in Tahrir Square and at the Ittihadiya presidential palace, with a mass iftar — the breaking of the Muslim fast — planned at sundown in the central plaza.
In Tahrir Square, several dozen demonstrators gathered under a scorching midday sun, adamant that the crowds would pick up later.
The rival rallies have raised fears of more of the violence that has shaken Egypt since the army removed Morsi after millions of demonstrators demanded his resignation.
In the worst violence, clashes at an army building in Cairo on Monday killed 53 people, mostly Morsi supporters.
The Brotherhood accuses the army of “massacring” its supporters, while the army says soldiers were attacked by “terrorists” and armed protesters.
The restive Sinai Peninsula, home to Egypt’s luxury Red Sea resorts, has been hit by a surge of violence, with militants killing a police officer in a rocket attack on a checkpoint yesterday, security and medical officials said.
A Coptic Christian man was found decapitated on Thursday five days after being kidnapped, and on Wednesday, two people died in a militant attack on a security checkpoint in the Sinai and a police base was mortared.
Police are hunting Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie and other senior leaders suspected of inciting deadly violence, after arrest warrants were issued on Wednesday.
A US State Department spokeswoman said the arrests were “not in line with the national reconciliation” the interim government and military say they want, adding that if they continued “it is hard to see how Egypt will move beyond this crisis.”