Wednesday 20 September 2017

US joins Germany in call for deposed Morsi to be set free

Maggie Fick and Tom Finn Cairo

Islamist supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohamed Morsi protested in Cairo again after a week of violence as the US called for the first time for the deposed leader to be freed.

Nine days after the army toppled Egypt's first elected leader following a wave of demonstrations against him, Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood is trying to mobilise popular support for his reinstatement, which for now looks like a lost cause.

Officials say Mr Morsi is still being held at the Republican Guard compound in Cairo, where troops killed 53 Islamist protesters on Monday in violence that intensified anger his allies already felt at the military's decision to oust him.

Four members of the security forces were also killed in that confrontation, which the military blames on "terrorists".

Mr Morsi's supporters call it a massacre and say those who died were praying peacefully when troops opened fire.

Asked whether Washington agreed with Germany's call for Mr Morsi to be released, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "We do agree."

She declined to say if the US had officially conveyed its wishes to Egyptian officials and the military.

At a Cairo mosque where Mr Morsi's supporters have held a vigil for more than two weeks, crowds swelled as people were bussed in from Brotherhood strongholds in the provinces.

UPRISING

"We're here and we're not leaving," said Amer Ali, who drove the five-hour journey from the Nile city of Assiut with his wife and two young children to join protesters.

"We came with our kids to support legitimacy, democracy, and our civilian president, the first freely elected president in the Arab world."

Some 2,000 people had gathered close to Cairo University on the weekly Muslim day of prayer, in the holy month of Ramadan.

The youth-led Tamarud group – which brought millions to the streets to demand that Mr Morsi resign – called for a Ramadan celebration in Tahrir Square, the cradle of the uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Only a few thousand came.

Outside the Rabaa Adawiya mosque in northeastern Cairo, tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters prayed and listened to speeches. Some of them have camped out in searing heat, fasting in the daytime since Ramadan began on Wednesday.

In a wooden shack erected on a side street and emblazoned with portraits of Mr Morsi, men prepared vats of rice and lamb. Others put the food in plastic bags to distribute after sundown, when Muslims break their fast.

Irish Independent

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