Mon, Aug 12, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Morsi loyalists call fresh rallies, crackdown looms

AFP, CAIRO

Supporters of ousted former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi called more rallies yesterday to demand his reinstatement, amid last-ditch efforts for reconciliation ahead of a threatened crackdown on protests.

Morsi loyalists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, have kept up two huge protest camps in Cairo to protest against the Islamist president’s ouster by the Egyptian military on July 3.

They say nothing short of his reinstatement will persuade them to disperse, despite several warnings by the interim leaders that the camps will be dismantled after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which was to end yesterday.

In a sign of the mounting tensions, a brief overnight power cut at the main sit-in outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque struck panic among the pro-Morsi demonstrators, with some taking to social media to announce that the assault had begun.

Protest organizers told reporters that as the electricity went out, they reinforced their barricades, added sandbags to the entrances of the protest site and sent volunteers to find out what was happening, only to be told it was a false alarm.

The main coalition of Morsi supporters, the Anti-Coup Alliance, said 10 marches were to set off from various parts of the capital yesterday “to defend the electoral legitimacy” of Egypt’s first freely elected president.

The call for fresh rallies comes as the al-Azhar mosque, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning, called for reconciliation talks in the latest of a string of attempts to find a peaceful solution to the political deadlock.

Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb is to begin contacts with political factions today aimed at convincing them to sit down to talks later this week, state media reported.

“Al-Azhar has been studying all the proposals for reconciliation put forward by political and intellectual figures ... to come up with a compromise formula for all Egyptians,” Tayeb’s adviser, Mahmud Azab, told the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper.

However, the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to accept such an invitation after al-Azhar sided with the military over Morsi’s ouster.

Tayeb appeared with Egyptian Supreme Commander Abdel Fattah el-Sisi when he announced on July 3 that Morsi had been deposed and laid out a political roadmap for a transition, which provides for new elections next year.

The interim leadership is now under immense pressure at home to crack down on the pro-Morsi protests, and immense pressure from the international community to avoid bloodshed.

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