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Pro, Anti-Morsi Groups Rally in Cairo

July 12, 2013

by VOA News

Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi are turning out in force Friday, responding to calls by the Muslim Brotherhood for huge nationwide protests across the country against the military-backed interim government.

The protests intensified amid reports that interim prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi plans to swear in his cabinet next week.

Thousands gathered outside the Rabaah el-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo, chanting, "Tell the truth," and calling for Morsi to be returned to power.

"The army betrayed the legitimate government, the elections and the will of the people," said Mahmoud Gamal who supports Morsi. "I want the return of President Morsi."

Opponents of the former president are also planning a major rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

The Muslim Brotherhood has vowed to keep protesting until Morsi is reinstated. They say democracy itself is under threat in Egypt. Opponents of Morsi say the military's ouster last week of the president reflected the democratic will of the Egyptian people. The mass rallies here reflect the deep divisions within Egyptian society and the challenges the interim President Adly Mansour faces in unifying the country.

Soldiers and police in riot gear have massed near the Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations. Dozens have been killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of the former president, and more than 50 Morsi supporters were killed in a confrontation with security forces earlier this week.

The Muslim Brotherhood has refused to participate in plans for an interim government that replaced administration of President Morsi, who was elected just over one year ago and ousted by the military last week after large opposition demonstrations.

Nervana Mahmoud, a Britain-based blogger on Egyptian politics, tells VOA it seems the Brotherhood's strategy is show they remain strong.

“They will use all their organization skills to rally thousands and thousands of supporters from all over Egypt to try to show the numbers," she said. "Now the game is about perception. They feel that June 30 was a manufactured by their opponents and it's now their turn to show they have supporters as well.”

But Adel Abdel Ghafar, an Egyptian analyst and visiting fellow at the American University of Cairo, says the Muslim Brotherhood's reach only goes so far.

“We don't see these millions and millions appear because President Morsi doesn't have millions and millions of supporters," said Adel Abdel Ghafar, an Egyptian analyst and visiting fellow at the American University of Cairo. "He has a very hardcore base of supporters and he has sympathizers, but I think the majority of Egyptians, especially during Ramadan, want to get on with their lives, and I think that's why we don’t' see massive numbers at their rallies.”

Egypt's new government has ordered the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and other senior figures for inciting the violence. It has also shut down Islamist television channels and newspapers.

The U.S. State Department says the arrests of Brotherhood leaders are not in line with the national reconciliation the interim Egyptian government says it wants. A spokeswoman said it will be difficult for Egypt to move forward if the arrests continue.

The military overthrew President Morsi on July 3 after days of massive anti-government protests. Morsi opponents accuse him of betraying the 2011 revolution that forced long-time president Hosni Mubarak from office.

The U.S. State Department said this week that Morsi's government was not a democratic rule, but has yet to decide whether his ouster represents a military coup. If such a determination is made, U.S. law would require the government to suspend all non-humanitarian aid to Egypt.

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