Egypt braces for protests after Muslim Brotherhood calls for ‘day of rejection’

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi gather at rallies as Brotherhood refuses to engage with ‘usurping authorities’

Egypt is braced for drama after Friday prayers as the vanquished Muslim Brotherhood called for a “day of rejection” following a widespread crackdown on its leadership by the country’s new interim president, Adly Mansour.

Supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, still reeling from the military coup that removed their leader from power, have begun to gather at rallies following a series of raids and arrests that decimated the Muslim Brotherhood’s senior ranks and consolidated the military’s hold on the country.

A Brotherhood statement read to supporters near the Rabia al-Adawiya mosque in eastern Cairo said: “We declare our complete rejection of the military coup staged against the elected president and the will of the nation. We refuse to participate in any activities with the usurping authorities.”

One of the group’s most senior leaders, Mohamed Beltagy, who has not been arrested, appeared before the crowd. Tens of thousands are expected at the mosque and may march to the nearby defence ministry building.

The military has deployed armoured vehicles and set up road blocks in the streets leading up to the mosque.

Gehad el-Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said before the protest: “We are being headhunted all over the country. We are holding a mass rally after Friday prayers to take all peaceful steps necessary to bring down this coup.” He called for demonstrations to be peaceful, despite fears that anger may spill over into violence.

The African Union said it had suspended Egypt from all its activities after Morsi’s removal.

In a stark sign of Egypt’s new political reality, the Brotherhood’s supreme leader, Mohamed al-Badie, who was untouchable under Morsi’s rule, was arrested on Thursday.

State prosecutors also announced that Morsi, who is in military custody, would face an investigation starting next week into claims that he had “insulted the presidency” – a move that would appear to put an end to any hopes of a political resurrection.

At his inauguration on Thursday, Mansour reached out to members of the Muslim Brotherhood, calling the organisation “part of the fabric of Egyptian society”.

But the severity of the crackdown on the Brotherhood leadership suggests that the overture will not be well received. Besides Badie, security officials also arrested his predecessor, Mahdi Akef, and one of his two deputies, Rashad Bayoumi, as well as Saad el-Katatni, head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, and the ultraconservative Salafi figure Hazem Abu Ismail, Associated Press reported.

The arrests of up to 300 Muslim Brotherhood officials are believed to have been ordered since the country’s military commander, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, brought an end to Morsi’s presidency on Wednesday night, a little over a year since he was inaugurated as the country’s first democratically elected leader.

The shockwaves have resounded in Egypt since then, with scenes of euphoria in the capital being met with foreboding in some towns and provinces, particularly in impoverished areas that had remained loyal to Morsi throughout the past turbulent year.

In Zagazig, the Nile delta city where Morsi has a family home, 80 people were injured on Thursday, Reuters reported. Witnesses said the army moved in to seal the area after an attack on pro-Morsi protesters by men on motorcycles led to clashes with sticks, knives and bottles.

Multiple attacks by Islamist gunmen on security forces were reported in Sinai early on Friday, though it was unclear whether they were in reaction to Morsi’s removal. Security sources said a soldier was killed and two were wounded when a police station in Rafah, on the border with Gaza, came under rocket fire. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds