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Updated: Fri, 23 Aug 2013 07:51:12 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Egyptian forces deploy ahead of Muslim Brotherhood rallies



Egyptian forces deploy ahead of Muslim Brotherhood rallies

Egyptian security and military forces deployed Friday around Cairo, closing off traffic in some major thoroughfares and in the city centre ahead of protests by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi.

The rallies are a test of whether Morsi's supporters can keep up their pressure despite an intensive security crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails.

The demonstrations come a day after deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak was released from prison and placed under house arrest in a military hospital in southern Cairo, adding to tensions. Although Morsi supporters have not mentioned the release in their calls for protests, some anti-Morsi revolutionary groups planned demonstrations against it.

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They are also the first since the Brotherhood spiritual leader and supreme guide Mohammed Badie was arrested and accused of instigating violence. Nearly 80 Brotherhood members, including senior leaders and spokesmen, were arrested on the eve of the Friday rallies.

Mubarak is still facing trial on charges of complicity in the killing of nearly 900 protesters during the 2011 uprising against him. But his release was viewed by many who rebelled against him as a setback in their campaign to hold him accountable for years of abuse and corruption.

Morsi supporters have kept up protests since July 3, when he was ousted by the military after millions took to the streets.

His critics accused the Islamist president of trying to monopolize power, letting his Muslim Brotherhood take over state institutions and ignoring real calls for reform. His defenders counter that he was up against pro-Mubarak officials who conspired to block him, and that the military leadership sought to undermine Egypt's progress toward democracy.

Pro-Morsi rallies have petered out

On the Brotherhood's political party Facebook page, the group said the Friday rallies are against the coup and those seeking to "capture" the January 25 uprising that ousted Mubarak.

Since Morsi's ouster, hundreds of Egyptians have been killed in the worst bout of violence since 2011. Hundreds of Brotherhood members, including senior leaders, have also been arrested.

Amid the intensive crackdown, pro-Morsi rallies have petered out in recent days.

Military troops deployed around the capital, closing off Tahrir square to traffic and setting up barbed wire at some of its entrances. A main thoroughfare in the capital that houses a mosque used as a launching pad for protests was also closed.

Armoured vehicles were deployed around the presidential palace and near the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, where Morsi supporters had held a sit-in for weeks that was violently dispersed and resulted in the death of hundreds.

Despite the standoff, the country's interim government pushed ahead with its road map for a post-Morsi political transition. A first draft of an amended version of the now-suspended constitution was finalized and published in local media, the first step toward changing the Islamist-backed charter that fuelled opposition to Morsi.

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