Mohammed Morsi's backers and opponents clash across Egypt after president grants himself sweeping powers

 

Opponents and supporters of Mohammed Morsi have clashed across Egypt, the day after the president granted himself sweeping new powers that critics fear can allow him to be a virtual dictator. At least 15 were reported injured.

In a sign of deepening polarization, state TV reported that protesters burned offices of the political arm of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group on several cities on the Suez Canal east of Cairo and in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, while Islamists engaged with fistfights with Morsi opponents in southern Egypt.

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy activists meanwhile converged on Cairo's Tahrir Square, angered at the decisions by Morsi. The decrees include exempting himself from judicial review, as well as a panel writing the new constitution and the upper house of parliament, and the power to enact any other measure he deemed necessary to deal with a "threat" to Egypt's "revolution."

Morsi's powers are supposed to be temporary — until a new constitution and new parliamentary elections take place — and feed on the belief among the public that judicial officials appointed under ousted President Hosni Mubarak are blocking the reform of state institutions.

The president's supporters cast the decrees as the next logical step to consolidate the gains of the 2011 uprising that overthrew Mubarak, and the only way to break through the political deadlock preventing the adoption of a new constitution. Courts dissolved both parliament and an earlier constitutional assembly earlier this year, and were weighing cases on whether to dissolve it again.

"We are going ahead and no one can stop our march. We are not a fragile nation and I am carrying my duty for the sake of God and my country. I take my decisions after consulting with everybody," the president said, according to the website of the state-owned Akhbar al-Youm newspaper.

But many veteran activists who organized that uprising say Morsi's decree puts him in the same category as Mubarak, who argued his autocratic powers were necessary only to shepherd Egypt to a new democratic future.

Mohamed El-Baradei, former head of the UN's nuclear agency, called Morsi a "new pharaoh." The president's one-time ally, the April 6 movement, warned that the polarization could bring a "civil war." One of Morsi's aides, Coptic Christian thinker Samer Marqous, resigned to protest the "undemocratic" decree.

"This is a crime against Egypt and a declaration of the end of January revolution to serve the interest of the Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship," wrote Ibrahim Eissa, chief editor of daily Al-Tahrir. "The revolution is over and the new dictator has killed her. His next step is to throw Egypt in prison."

The state media described Morsi's decree as a "corrective revolution," and the official radio station aired phone calls from listeners praising the president's decree. In contrast, the privately owned Al-Masry al-Youm newspaper ran a front page headline reading, "Morsi, a dictator, temporarily."

Chants of "Leave, leave" rang across Tahrir Square, echoing the calls from when it was the epicenter of last year's uprising. "Morsi is Mubarak ... Revolution everywhere."

Across town, in front of the presidential palace, Muslim Brotherhood supporters and other Islamists changed "the people support the president's decree" and pumped their fists in the air.

"God will humiliate those who are attacking our president, Mohammed Morsi," said ultraconservative cleric Mohammed Abdel-Maksoud. "Whoever insults the sultan, God humiliates him," he added.

Outside the capital, the rival groups clashed.

Thousands from the two camps threw stones and chunks of marble at each other outside a mosque in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria after Friday Muslim prayers. Anti-Morsi protesters threw stones and firecrackers at supporters of the Brotherhood, who used prayer rugs to shield themselves.

The anti-Morsi protesters stormed a Brotherhood office in front of the mosque. At least 15 people were hurt in the clash, medical officials said.

State TV says Morsi opponents set fire to his party's offices in the Suez Canal cities of Suez, Port Said and Ismailia.

In the southern city of Assiut, ultraconservative Islamists of the Salafi tend and former Jihadists outnumbered liberal and leftists, such as the April 6 youth groups. The two sides exchanged insults and briefly scuffled with firsts and stones.

The rocky post-Mubarak transition, now in its second year, has seen tensions rising between Islamists and their partners in the uprising, liberals, leftists, and other youth groups.

Since Mubarak's departure, Islamists have dominated elections for parliament and president, while the young, mostly secular liberal activists have performed comparatively poorly.

They have since complained of being marginalized in the drafting of the constitution and their frustration has spilled over several times. Rallies this week in Cairo marking the anniversary of bloody 2011 protests against Egypt's then-military rulers turned violent, with demonstrators throwing rocks and firebombs and security forces firing birdshot and tear gas.

Both sides are frustrated with the inability of Egypt's prosecutors, mostly Mubarak holdovers, to successfully convict police and others — including the ousted president himself — for the killings of protesters during the 2011 uprising.

In a gesture aimed at the youth groups, Morsi's decrees included the retrial of Mubarak and top aides on charges of killing protesters, and the creation of a new "protection of the revolution" judicial body to swiftly carry them out.

He did not order retrials for lower level police acquitted in the killings, seen by his critics as a move to retain the support of the police.

AP

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?