Opposing factions hold rallies in Egypt

Berlin urges release of ousted president Mohamed Morsi from secret detention location

Supporters of the deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi pray next to his picture during a protest in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters

Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered at various sites across the capital in demonstrations both in support of and against the army generals who deposed president Mohamed Morsi last week.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters urged Mr Morsi's reinstatement, while opponents welcomed the appointment as deputy prime minister of economist Ziad Bahaeddin, a co- founder of the leftist Social Democratic party.

The military, which has stepped up its campaign against militants in Sinai, dropped leaflets on the town of El-Arish warning residents of the threat posed by army fundamentalist elements who killed a policeman and seriously wounded a second. A soldier was also slain in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya.

The rallies coincided with a German call for the release of Mr Morsi, who has been incommunicado since his detention, while other senior Brotherhood figures have been rounded up and held pending investigation for incitement.


Egyptian spokesmen say his location has been kept secret for his own safety while Berlin has urged an “end to restrictions on [his] whereabouts”.

Speaker Sawfat Hegazi urged the throng assembled by the Brotherhood outside Rabaa al-Aliwa mosque in Nasr City to “resist” and remain months and even years until he is returned to power. Mr Hegazi said that once Mr Morsi was reinstated, there could be parliamentary elections and the formation of a committee to draft a national reconciliation plan.

However, the opposition camp argues the Brotherhood is a diminishing minority that must accept defeat and tell its supporters to go home peaceably. Analyst Youssef Zaki esti- mated the Brotherhood’s base of support at about six million, the number of voters who cast ballots for Mr Morsi in the first round of the presidential election in 2012.

But the total number of valid votes in that contest was 23 million.

Since he won the presidency in the second round, Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood have lost considerable support.

Further, the movement’s core leaders have been detained and its rank and file split, with the rejectionist old guard insisting on resistance while younger members favour dialogue.

Defectors belonging to the “Brotherhood without Violence” have offered to halt con- frontation in exchange for the release of Mr Morsi and others. They propose a new presidential poll followed by parliamentary elections and an end to military trials for civilians. These demands approximate the opposition’s stance.

The main secular coalition, the National Salvation Front headed by interim vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei, has submitted amendments to the constitutional declaration issued by caretaker president Adly Mansour.

The Front said no single party or political power should have the “right to oppose proposals or decisions [in a way] that hampers the progress of the political process and excludes some figures of notable status and capacity from participation” in the transition.

The reference was to the sole religious party in the opposition alliance, the ultra-conser- vative Salafi Nour party which rejected the nominations of Mr ElBaradei and Mr Bahaeddin for the post of prime minister.

The Front is seeking a cabinet made up of figures behind the 2011 uprising.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times