Things fall apart: Egypt's Tahrir Square descends into chaos yet again
Clashes erupt in Cairo's Tahrir Square (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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Clashes erupted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday as supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi tried to wrest control of the iconic square in rival rallies, an AFP journalist reported.
Gunshots were heard during the clashes clashes in downtown Cairo as well as explosions caused by Molotov cocktails, an Al Arabiya correspondent said.
The state news agency cited a doctor at a hospital near Tahrir saying 41 people had been injured in some of the worst violence over the country’s new Islamist leader.
The tensions between rival Egyptian political factions erupted during a protest against a court ruling that acquitted officials from Hosni Mubarak’s era of ordering a camel charge against demonstrators in last year’s uprising.
While the activists were united in anger at the court ruling, supporters and opponents of Mursi threw stones and bottles at each other, showing feelings still run high between rival groups trying to shape the new Egypt after decades of autocracy, according to Reuters.
The charge by men on camels and horseback was one of the most violent incidents during the uprising that ousted Mubarak in February 2011. The case has been closely watched by those seeking justice for the hundreds killed in the revolt.
A court on Wednesday said it did not find evidence to convict the defendants in the case, including top Mubarak-era officials such as former lower house of parliament speaker Fathi Sorour and Safwat al-Sherif, a longtime Mubarak aide.
More than 2,000 demonstrators were in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and a nearby street by Friday afternoon. Some demonstrators pulled down a scaffold podium that had been erected on one side of the square for speeches.
A new government is in place but Egypt does not have a new constitution or parliament. Islamists and liberals have been at loggerheads over the constitution, still at the drafting stage and which must be in place before a parliamentary vote is held.
“Down, down with rule by the guide,” Mursi’s opponents chanted in Tahrir on Friday -- a reference to Mohammed Badie, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group Mursi officially resigned from upon taking office. Mursi’s opponents say Badie still pulls the strings.
“Mursi, Mursi,” the president’s backers responded.
But protester numbers were far less than the throngs of people who have congregated in Tahrir at other times since last year’s uprising that overthrew Mubarak after 30 years in power.
Demonstrators also gathered in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria, where Mursi went to a mosque to perform Friday prayers before giving a speech there.
“We won’t let anyone involved in corruption get away,” he said, while urging protesters not to disrupt people's work. As he spoke, some chanted: “The people want the judiciary purged.”
Political groups, including the Brotherhood, had called for a big turnout in Tahrir to condemn the ruling. Many Egyptians blamed the general prosecutor, perceived as a Mubarak loyalist, for not securing convictions.
In an apparent bid to appease the public, the president said late on Thursday he was moving Abdul Maguid Mahmoud out of that position to a new post, as ambassador to the Vatican, because Egyptian law prevents him being dismissed.
Mahmoud denounced the move and told Egyptian media he would stay on. The influential judges club condemned the decision, seeing it as a violation of judicial independence. Even some groups who wanted Mahmoud out, questioned the way it was done.
“We will never ignore those who committed crimes against the nation and corrupted it,” Mursi said in a speech at a mosque in the coastal city of Alexandria on Thursday.
“They will be dealt with by the judiciary and legal system,” he said in the speech reported by the official news agency MENA.
Ahmed al-Zind, head of the Judges’ Club, said the judiciary was backing Mahmud in a bid to uphold “the sovereignty of the law and the principle of separation of powers,” the state-run al-Ahram daily reported.
He said the judges would hold an emergency meeting “to confront the current crisis that aims at harming the judiciary.”
Zind’s group had fiercely opposed the Islamist’s election last June, which ended a military-led transition after a popular uprising overthrew Mubarak in February 2011.
Mubarak and his former interior minister Habib al-Adly were sentenced to life in prison in June for failing to prevent killings of protesters during the revolt, but their police chiefs were all acquitted.
Mursi has won grudging respect from some opponents for pushing the army out of politics, after decades of rule by military men, and for raising Egypt’s profile abroad.
But many Egyptians, with high expectations after the revolt, say he has not done enough at home, failing to deliver on his promises for his first 100 days like cleaning up cities and getting traffic moving in Egypt’s congested streets.
What did you think of the 'camel case' court ruling? Do you think Morsi is doing a good job as president or do you think that under his rule clashes like this are set to continue? Share your thoughts with us below!
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