Egyptian cabinet vows to disperse pro-Morsi protest camps

Cabinet say camps represent threat to national security but Muslim Brotherhood says it will remain on streets of Cairo

The Muslim Brotherhood has said it will remain on the streets despite Egypt’s military-backed cabinet vowing on Wednesday to forcefully disperse two month-long protest camps housing thousands of supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi, prompting fears of a third state-led massacre of pro-Morsi protesters in as many weeks.

In a televised statement late on Wednesday afternoon, the cabinet said the camps “represent a threat to Egyptian national security” and the authorities would “begin taking all necessary measures to address these dangers and put an end to them, commissioning the interior minister to do all that is necessary regarding this matter within the framework of the constitution and the law”.

In response Gehad el-Haddad, a spokesman for Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, said they would continue to maintain the camps – one in Giza, west Cairo, and the other at Rabaa al-Adawiya, east Cairo, near the scenes of both of this month’s mass killings of Morsi supporters.

“We are not leaving,” Haddad said. “Rabaa is an open, peaceful sit-in of citizens protesting against the coup. People can roam freely through here and see there is no threat here. We don’t intend on dispersing it any time soon.”

The two sit-ins were set up in protest at Morsi’s removal by the army on 3 July. Pro-Morsi marches regularly snake from the sites, disrupting traffic across much of Cairo and causing further government frustration.

Egypt’s new army-backed interim government has called for the camps’ closure as a precondition for dialogue with the Brotherhood, maintaining that they contain torture cells and terrorist units. But although there are credible allegations of abuse, many accusations directed at the camps are unsubstantiated.

While the camps’ continued existence makes further bloodshed in their vicinity ever more likely, the Muslim Brotherhood refuses to close them down since they see their street presence as the only safeguard against a wider crackdown on their organisation across the country.

On Wednesday afternoon officials also said they would prosecute several senior Brotherhood officials including its leader, Mohamed Badie, on charges of inciting violence.

Many fear further arrests. “A lot of people are scared to go home because they know they will be arrested,” said Mohamed Soudan, a spokesman for the Brotherhood’s political wing, said earlier this week. “Don’t tell me we should engage in the political process. There is no political process in Egypt.”

Haddad said the Brotherhood was in catch-22 situation. “Whatever we do, we’re under the threat of the police state.”

Other senior Brotherhood members have argued that it is up to the military to compromise first, since their recent brutal treatment of Morsi supporters gives them little faith in the army’s intentions.

“What have they compromised on?” said Gamal Heshmat, a member of the group’s 19-strong governing body. “They’ve arrested thousands of us, killed hundreds, pursued our leaders, and shut down [sympathetic] television channels.”

Critics of the Brotherhood accuse them of victimhood and of seeking martyrdom instead of realistic political solutions. Others also say they are hypocrites for having ignored the brutal treatment of protesters during Morsi’s tenure. © 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