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July 05, 2013

Egypt Braces for New Round of Protests

by VOA News

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called for mass protests Friday against the military-backed ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.

The Brotherhood is part of an alliance of Islamist parties calling for peaceful protests to follow afternoon prayers across the country.

Until now, the atmosphere on the streets has been largely celebratory since Morsi was forced out by the military following large opposition protests.

He was replaced by Adly Mansour, a top judge who was sworn in Thursday as interim president -- a move that was quickly rejected by the Brotherhood.

Islam Abdel-Rahman, who is on the the foreign affairs committee of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, told VOA that his group will not take part in any military-led political process. 

​But he says his group is calling for strictly peaceful protests against the move.

"We believe in peaceful means of defying this military coup," Abdel-Rahman said. "We don't believe in taking up arms or something like this. We still believe this country can be managed by political means."

He also rejected regional comparisons that some have made to other countries that experienced widespread unrest following military takeovers.

"Egypt is not like Pakistan. Egypt is not like Algeria," he said. "Egypt is Egypt and people are very confident and determined that we can give an example of a peaceful challenge to an armed coup."

Friday's protests are seen by some as a test of whether the Islamist faction still has the popular support that brought it to power in a series of elections held since the ouster of authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

There were no signs of mass violence by mid-day Friday. Still, there were fears of retaliation, possibly by fringe Islamist elements, in response to what some consider a military coup against their elected leader.

Early Friday, security officials said "Islamist gunmen" attacked several military and police checkpoints in the lawless northern Sinai, killing an Egyptian soldier and wounding at least two others.

Egypt's military is calling for reconciliation and playing down concerns of a revenge campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood. A military spokesperson Thursday said no arbitrary measures will be taken against any political group.

But as of early Friday, prosecutors had issued arrest warrants for 300 of the group's members and detained some of its top leaders. Morsi has also been placed in military custody.

​​The Brotherhood has also slammed the military for shutting down its official television channel and newspaper, as well as several other Islamist media outlets. In a statement, the group said the moves bring Egypt "back to the era of repressive practices, dictatorship, and corruption."

Judicial officials say they will open an investigation next week against Morsi and other Brotherhood members on charges of "insulting the judiciary."

United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said Friday she was concerned about the reports of arrests and media shutdowns, saying there should be "no illegal acts of retribution."

Some political groups that have chosen to take part in the transition government have also criticized the moves, saying it is crucial that the Muslim Brotherhood not be driven away from the political process.

The military has already suspended the country's Islamist-backed constitution and dissolved the parliament. It plans to soon set up a panel to review the constitution and set a timetable for new elections.