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Morsi support sit-ins go on in Egypt despite deadline

Aug. 12, 2013 at 11:17 AM   |   Comments

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CAIRO, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- A deadline to remove Egyptian protesters at two sit-ins calling to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Morsi came and went, officials said Monday.

Egyptian government and police officials said Sunday the protesters would be removed at daylight Monday. However by early afternoon, Muslim Brotherhood supporters remained at the sites declaring their demonstrations would remain non-violent.

Since Morsi's July 3 ouster, his supporters have staged two sit-ins, one at Rabaa al-Adawiya in the Nasr City district of Cairo and at the al-Nahda Square in Giza, Ahram Online reported.

Plans to remove Morsi's supporters were met with heated discussions, with Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei warning of the dangers of dispersing Morsi's supporters. ElBaradei made the statements at a meeting with Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Sunday, sources told the Egypt Independent.

ElBaradei said support for the Muslim Brotherhood was already waning and assessed if the sit-ins are allowed to continue, support for them would be lost within a month. He called to make an official announcement that the Muslim Brotherhood protesters would not be removed, but warned any other demonstrations to counter Morsi's supporters would be dispersed.

The Muslim Brotherhood, however, denied its popularity was waning and maintained on its English-language Ikhwanweb site that the party's popularity had increased.

"The ministry is ready for all scenarios. We are ready to disperse the sit-in ... but will act upon the political decision," Hany Abdel-Latif, an Interior Ministry spokesman, told the Independent.

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Muslim Brotherhood security teams had worked in the hours before dawn to fortify the encampments, filling sandbags and erecting steel-reinforced brick walls in anticipation that government security forces would first cordon off the area, cut off the flow of food and water, and use tear gas and water cannons to break up the gathering, The New York Times reported. Protesters had told The Washington Post they expected police would use live ammunition as well.

"All options are on the table," an Interior Ministry source told the government's flagship newspaper al-Ahram ahead of the deadline.

"Our morale is very high," demonstrator Ibrahim El-Hawari, 49, a retired military officer, told the Post. "We will not run."

Two weeks ago, the Cabinet of the military-backed interim government said Interior Ministry forces could use "all necessary measures" to break up the two sprawling sit-in sites.

Sisi has said a mass pro-government rally he called for two weeks ago showed the people want security forces to take a tough stand against pro-Morsi protesters.

Morsi loyalists have said nothing short of reinstating Egypt's first freely elected president would get them to disperse.

The interim leaders -- who have warned for several weeks the camps would be dismantled after Thursday's Eid al-Fitr holiday -- say Morsi will never be reinstated. They say his detention or release is now a matter for the courts to decide.

Morsi is under investigation related to his escape from political imprisonment during the 2011 revolution that overthrew the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. He is alleged to have conspired with Palestinian militant group Hamas in the jailbreak.

Amr Darrag, a Brotherhood leader involved in talks with Western diplomats, told the Times he considered the allegations "a bad joke."

Darrag told the newspaper the Brotherhood wanted Morsi released and reinstated at least temporarily, to give the handover legal legitimacy.

Western diplomats have said the release of imprisoned Brotherhood leaders could reassure Islamists of fair treatment in the future.

More than 140 Morsi supporters were killed in two deadly incidents when they confronted security forces after Morsi's ouster.

Police and the military have said they were provoked by protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails, rocks and bottles at them.

The pro-Morsi Youth Against the Coup organization said late Sunday if security forces break up the sit-ins, protesters will occupy Tahrir Square, epicenter of the popular uprising that led to Mubarak's overthrow.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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