Egypt’s military-backed government has ordered police to clear two Cairo protest camps packed with supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi, saying they pose a threat to national security and were “terrorising” citizens.
The move yesterday signalled an imminent crackdown against the heavily barricaded sit-ins – one outside a mosque in eastern Cairo and another near the main Cairo University campus. It also raised the spectre of more violence after clashes between police and the Islamist protesters on 8 July and last weekend left more than 130 dead.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad said the cabinet’s announcement reflected the rule of a “conspiratorial gang” that has no respect for the law. He also dismissed as unfounded claims that the sit-ins posed a threat to security.
More than 260 people have been killed since Mr Morsi was removed by the military on 3 July, leaving the country divided between those calling for his reinstatement and millions who marched against him and his Muslim Brotherhood in support of the new political order.
Police have been instructed to end the protests “within the law and the constitution”, information minister Dorreya Sharaf el-Din said in a televised statement.
Interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police, said the disbanding of the sit-ins will be carried out in gradual steps according to orders from prosecutors. “I hope they [Morsi supporters] resort to reason” and leave without authorities having to move in, he said.
In a parallel move, prosecutors also referred three top Brotherhood leaders, including its fugitive spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, to trial for allegedly inciting the killing of anti-Morsi protesters last month.