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Police Fire Tear Gas at Egyptian Protesters

  • VOA News

Opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi clash with Islamist supporters of the president, unseen, as a cordon of riot police separates the groups in Alexandria, Egypt, December 21, 2012.

Opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi clash with Islamist supporters of the president, unseen, as a cordon of riot police separates the groups in Alexandria, Egypt, December 21, 2012.

Police have fired tear gas at clashing protesters in Egypt's northern city of Alexandria on the eve of a second day of polling on a controversial constitutional referendum.

Anti-constitution protesters and conservative Islamists threw stones at one another on Friday, prompting riot police to fire tear gas to separate them. There was no immediate word on possible injuries.

Thousands of Egyptians poured onto streets in Alexandria earlier in the day, waving flags and chanting as they marched through the city. Conservative Islamists had called for mass rallies before Saturday's second leg of voting on the proposed constitution.

Egypt's Draft Constitution

  • Limits president to two four-year terms
  • Provides protections against arbitrary detention and torture
  • Islamic law, or Sharia, serves as the basis for legislation
  • Religious freedom is limited to Muslims, Christians and Jews
  • Citizens are deemed equal before the law and equal in rights
The measure has the support of President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups. However, members of the liberal, secular and Christian opposition fear it will erode civil liberties because it increases the role of Islamic law and does not mention women's rights.

The proposal was approved by a largely Islamic committee last month after liberal and Christian members walked out, complaining their views were being ignored.

Last Friday, well-known ultraconservative Salifi cleric Ahmed el-Mahalawi was trapped inside of an Alexandria mosque for hours while supporters and opponents of the constitution clashed outside. The cleric had angered some worshippers when he voiced support for the referendum.

The remaining provinces vote will on the referendum on Saturday, a week after voters in Cairo, Alexandria and a group of other provinces cast ballots.

Unofficial results from the first day of polling show almost 57-percent of voters approved the measure.

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