Egypt protests as Morsi hedges


Thousands of people flowed into the streets of Cairo, the Egyptian capital, Tuesday afternoon for a day of protest against President Mohamed Morsi's attempt to assert broad new powers for the duration of the country's political transition, dismissing his efforts just the night before to reaffirm his deference to Egyptian law and courts.

By early Tuesday afternoon in Cairo, a dense crowd of hundreds had gathered outside the headquarters of a trade group for lawyers, and thousands more had filed in around a small tent city in Tahrir Square. In an echo of chants against Mubarak, Egyptian's ousted president almost two years ago, they shouted, "Leave, leave!" and "Bring down the regime!" They also denounced the spiritual leader of Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group allied with Morsi.

Egyptian television had captured the growing polarization of the country Monday in split-screen coverage of two simultaneous funerals, each for a teenage boy killed in clashes set off by disputes over the new president's powers.

"Morsi killed him," one of the boy's fathers said in a video circulated over the Internet.

"Now blood has been spilled by political factions, so this is not going to go away," said Rabab el-Mahdi, a professor at the American University in Cairo and a left-leaning activist. Still larger crowds were expected in the evening, as marchers from around the city headed for the square.

Many schools and other businesses had closed in anticipation of bedlam, and on Monday, the Brotherhood called off a rival demonstration in support of the president, saying it wanted to avoid violence.

Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council met again on Tuesday to consider its response to the president, and the leader of Al Azhar, a centre of Sunni Muslim learning that is regarded as the pre-eminent moral authority here, met with groups of political leaders in an effort to resolve the battle over the president's decree and the deadlock in the constitutional assembly, trying to draw up a new constitution.

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