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Friday, Jul 25, 2014
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Egypt: Islamist lawmakers demand Morsi's return


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CAIRO - Islamist lawmakers in Egypt's disbanded upper house of parliament demanded Saturday the army reinstate ousted President Mohammed Morsi, and called on other legislatures around the world not to recognize the country's new military-backed leadership.

Morsi's supporters, including his Islamist allies, remain steadfast in their rejection of the military coup that toppled the president nearly two weeks ago after millions took to the street to demand his ouster. They have staged a series of mass protests in Cairo to push their demands, and are vowing to stay in the streets until he is returned to office.

Speaking at a mass rally staged by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, the two dozen former parliamentarians, all Islamist members of the Shura Council that was dissolved by court order after the coup, accused the military of attempting to restore a "corrupt and dictatorial" regime.

The Brotherhood's website published a statement by the former lawmakers, in which they said the Shura Council's dissolution was invalid and claimed to have held a session at the rally.

Morsi was Egypt's first freely elected president, succeeding longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak who himself was toppled in 2011.

The military has brushed aside the Brotherhood's demands, while the new army-backed administration of interim President Adly Mansour has forged ahead with a swift timetable to amend the now suspended constitution, drafted under Morsi, and to hold parliamentary and presidential elections by early next year.

Local media have reported that a new Cabinet could be named next week. On Saturday, Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr submitted his resignation ahead of the expected shake-up.

While the presidency has floated offers of reconciliation with the Brotherhood, authorities are simultaneously clamping down on the group. So far, five of its top leaders have been arrested, and arrest warrants have been issued against the group's top leader and nine other Islamists. Islamist TV networks, meanwhile, have been shuttered.

Prosecutors on Saturday said they are looking into new complaints against Morsi, a number of Brotherhood leaders, including the group's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, and a number of their supporters. Spokesman for the prosecutor's office Adel al-Saeed said the complaints filed include collaborating with foreign bodies to harm national interests, the killing of peaceful protesters, possession of weapons and explosives, assaults on military barracks and damaging the state of the economy.

It was not immediately known who filed the complaints. State prosecutors investigate numerous complaints daily, and many do not result in charges being brought to court.

Prosecutors also continue to investigate allegations that Morsi and 30 other Brotherhood leaders escaped from prison in 2011 with help from the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Jailbreaks occurred amid the uprising that toppled Mubarak and led to the release of thousands of inmates.

Street violence has largely ceased since Monday's deadly clashes that left more than 50 Muslim Brotherhood supporters dead and hundreds wounded after they were holding a sit-in in front of Republican Guard forces club. The Brotherhood accuses the military of opening fire on protesters, while the army says Morsi supporters instigated the violence.

The Brotherhood has remained adamant in its opposition to the new political landscape, and shows no sign of backing down in its showdown with the military-backed interim leadership.

Mohammed el-Beltagy, a leading Brotherhood member and among those wanted by police, told thousands of the group's supporters overnight Friday that "for those who want reconciliation, our arms are open ... but those who want reconciliation do not fire bullets."

Morsi's supporters have pledged to keep protesting until the military meets their demands - the reinstatement of Morsi, the Islamist-drafted constitution and the Islamist-dominated legislature - and leading Brotherhood member Essam el-Arian called for another mass rally on Monday.

The deposed president's supporters have been holding a sit-in in front of the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in eastern Cairo for two weeks. The rally has taken on a more permanent air, with tents going up as well as bathrooms being constructed behind brick walls to provide some privacy. Army soldiers stand guard from a relative distance, staking out positions about a kilometer (half-mile) away to try to avoid any direct confrontation.

On Friday, tens of thousands of Morsi supporters, many of them from provinces outside Cairo, turned out for a mass protest in front of the mosque, filling up the large intersection and spilling some ways down the boulevards. Witnesses said that military helicopters dropped leaflets on the crowd just before dawn encouraging them to leave the sit-in.

"The measures which have been taken were not targeting you and were not meant to belittle your role and your status," the leaflets said. "We assure to you that there will be no manhunt for those who want to end the sit-in and return to his home."

It also warned them not to approach nearby military buildings.

The Brotherhood responded to the flyers, saying that "the leaders of the coup are not keen on the stability of Egypt" and questioned the military's promise not to go after protesters.

"Egyptian people are not naive and cannot be bitten twice," the group said in a statement.

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