EGYPT'S Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi faced the gravest threat of his short rule last night as his refusal to compromise over his new powers was challenged by one of the biggest protests since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
Despite brotherhood predictions that turn-out for marches on Tahrir Square would be low, up to 100,000 liberals, secular political leaders and even moderate Islamists came out.
They deliberately tried to recapture the spirit of last year's revolution against former president Mubarak. "We can't accept a new dictatorship under any circumstances, not after our children have been dying in the streets," said Anes Abu Yousef, a university professor.
The Muslim Brotherhood removed a potential source of violent confrontation, calling off a counter-rally planned to support Mr Morsi.
But Mr Morsi refused to compromise on his declaration of last Thursday removing the right of the courts to challenge his decisions, striking down unilaterally a court case to disband the Islamist-dominated constitutional committee, and sacking the prosecutor-general.
Yesterday morning, the Judges Club, a representative body, announced members were continuing with a strike. As the protests in Tahrir Square began in the early afternoon it was clear they were being joined by a swathe of the middle-class intelligentsia.
The protest rallies were largely peaceful, at least until mid-evening, in contrast with earlier attempts by demonstrators to reach the American embassy, where they were beaten back by police with tear gas.
One man died of the effects of inhalation, a third victim of a week of protests, two of them protesters, and one a 15-year-old supporter of the brotherhood.
There were also clashes in other towns around the country. Mr Morsi did say that his presidential immunity, which is supposed to be temporary until a constitution is approved and a new parliament elected, would only be exercised on "sovereign issues". That term has not been defined precisely but is understood to mean matters of constitutional significance.
Human Rights Watch said the declaration undermined the rule of law and gave the president more powers than the previous military rule. (© Daily Telegraph, London)