Police fire tear gas at Egyptian protesters defying ban

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Egyptian Riot policemen fire tear gas towards supporters during a demonstration of Muslim Brotherhood on November 29, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo: AFP - Mahmoud Khaled)

Published Friday, November 29, 2013

Updated 6:30pm: Police fired tear gas Friday at Islamists who demonstrated in Egypt, defying a new law banning unauthorized protests that has also angered secular activists following the beating and arrest of a leading blogger.

The Muslim Brotherhood vowed to go ahead regardless with the weekly protests it has organized after noon prayers ever since Islamist president Mohammed Mursi was overthrown in a July 3 military coup.

Police used tear gas against hundreds of Mursi's supporters who protested in front of a presidential palace in Cairo, an AFP reporter said, adding that he also heard gunshots.

The clashes come a day after police raided the home of prominent blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah in a stark declaration of intent reminiscent of the autocratic rule of dictator Hosni Mubarak, ousted in a popular uprising nearly three years ago.

A 20-member police force knocked down the 32-year-old activist's door around 10:00 pm and confiscated computers and mobile phones in the house, his wife Manal told Egyptian news site Mada Masr.

She said that police beat her husband when he asked to see an arrest warrant before taking him into custody. Manal, who was sleeping when the police arrived, had earlier wrote on Twitter that officers also beat her, and posted pictures of blood stains in their bedroom.

Earlier in the day, Abd El Fattah and other activists were summoned to appear before the prosecutor general Saturday for questioning about their role in inciting protests in front of the Shura Council on Tuesday. Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, was also summoned.

Police Friday also fired tear gas on dozens of Islamists in Cairo's Mohandessin district and on a key road leading to the pyramids.

Protesters retaliated by throwing stones and burning tires in Mohandessin, officials said, adding that similar protests were also dispersed in the cities of Alexandria, Suez, Mahallah and Qena.

Egypt's army-installed government say the new law requires protest organizers to give three days' written notice to the authorities before holding any demonstration.

In addition, it also bans demonstrations in places of worship or starting from such places.

Earlier Friday the interior ministry "warn[ed] all citizens against organizing any activities, assemblies, marches or demonstrations that break the law without obtaining prior permission from security forces," a statement said.

"The ministry will deal with these illegal activities firmly and decisively."

Interim president Adly Mansour issued the demonstration ban last Sunday and police have since enforced it, sometimes bloodily.

On Thursday, an engineering student was killed during an Islamist demonstration at Cairo university, health officials said.

To the anger of secular supporters of Mursi's overthrow, police have taken action against all demonstrations, not just those organized by the ousted president's Islamist backers.

Activists say the ban is hypocritical as the army justified its coup as a response to mass demonstrations across the country against Mursi's turbulent single year in power.

Pro-democracy groups have been particularly incensed by the arrest of Abdel Fattah late on Thursday.

Prosecutors had issued warrants on Wednesday for the arrest of Abdel Fattah and fellow activist Ahmed Maher, on charges of participating in an unauthorized demonstration on Tuesday in defiance of the new ban.

Both men were prominent opponents of Mursi when he was in power.

"Deja vu, I'm about to hand myself in to the authorities again on Saturday," Abdel Fattah wrote on Facebook in response to the arrest warrant.

Abdel Fattah was detained under Mubarak, under the military junta that ousted him, and again under Mursi.

(AFP, Mada Masr)


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