Egypt Islamists call new demos
23 August 2013, 14:14
Cairo - Islamist supporters of ousted Egyptian president
Mohammed Morsi called new protests against the army on Friday, in a test of
their ability to mobilise support seven weeks after his overthrow.
In recent days, dozens of senior and mid-level members of
Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested, disrupting the organisation's
structure, and raising questions about its remaining strength.
The call for demonstrations by loyalists of Morsi, who
remains in custody at a secret location, came a day after his predecessor Hosni
Mubarak was released from jail to house arrest at a military hospital.
The release stirred little interest in Egypt, which has been
rocked by political unrest since Morsi's 3 July ouster by the military after
massive protests against him.
Nearly 1 000 people were killed in a week of violence
between Morsi loyalists and security forces, sparking international concern and
Friday was set to be a test of the remaining strength and
commitment of the Islamists, who called for "Friday of martyrs"
protests after the main weekly Muslim prayers.
In recent days, dwindling numbers of demonstrators have
showed up to rallies, their ranks thinned by a fierce crackdown.
Communication by telephone has stopped altogether, and many
Brotherhood members are in hiding, avoiding their homes, a mid-level member of
the group told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"We no longer receive directives and we don't really
know what we should do anymore. Most of our direct leaders are detained,"
the member from the Nile Delta said.
Among those detained is the group's supreme guide Mohamed
Badie - the first time a Brotherhood chief has been arrested since 1981.
Morsi himself is being held at a secret location and faces
charges related to his 2011 escape from prison and of inciting the death and
torture of protesters.
His continued detention even as Mubarak is released to house
arrest has stirred comment, particularly as Mubarak also faces charges of
complicity in the deaths of protesters.
But in the face of the deadly unrest that has rocked Egypt
in recent days, there was no indication that activists would take to the
streets, as they have done before, to protest Mubarak's transfer.
"A year ago, it would have been difficult to imagine
his release without popular protests against it," said Barah Mikail, a
Middle East specialist at the FRIDE think-tank.
"Today, everything else that is happening has moderated
Mubarak is still on trial and faces his next court session
on Sunday, when Badie and several other Brotherhood leaders will also appear
before a court.
Washington on Thursday sidestepped questions about Mubarak's
release from jail, but called for Morsi to be freed.
"With respect to the Mubarak trial and decisions made,
this is an internal Egyptian legal matter," said State Department spokesperson
"Our position on Mr Morsi remains the same. We believe
there should be a process for his release," Psaki said
But there has been no sign that a crackdown against the
Brotherhood will slow.
The latest arrest was that of Ahmed Aref, one of the few
remaining spokesperson for the group who had not been detained.
At the same time, attacks against Christian institutions,
which have been blamed on Islamists, have continued.
Dozens of Christian churches, schools, businesses and homes
- mostly in the rural south - have been attacked, allegedly by Islamists angry
at the Coptic Church leadership's endorsement of Morsi's ouster.
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch condemned the government for
failing to protect churches, and the Brotherhood for failing to halt incitement
Violence has also continued to target police and soldiers,
including three who were killed in a drive-by shooting near the Suez Canal town
of Ismailia on Thursday.
The unrest has prompted international criticism of the
authorities, with EU foreign ministers agreeing at an emergency meeting on
Wednesday to suspend the sale of arms and security equipment to Cairo.
They issued a statement calling recent security operations
"disproportionate", while also condemning "acts of
terrorism" in the Sinai and the church attacks.
But they expressed concern over the economic situation and
said "assistance in the socioeconomic sector and to civil society will
The United States has also criticised the violence, as well
as Badie's arrest, and announced the cancellation of joint military exercises.
But it has stopped short of halting its $1.3bn a year in
mainly military aid.