Is Morsi a president for all Egyptians, or just Brothers? (+ video)
President Mohamed Morsi's reliance on Muslim Brotherhood activists to put down protests around the palace has further alienated some Egyptians from his rule.
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Brothers called up
The clashes last week were some of the deadliest this year. Protesters against the president had gathered at his presidential palace on Dec. 4 to protest his decision to grant himself immunity from judicial review, and to call a quick referendum on a controversial draft constitution. Some stayed overnight, camping out beside the palace.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Continued Turmoil in Egypt
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On Dec. 5, Muslim Brotherhood leaders called on their followers to march to the presidential palace. Essam El Erian, the deputy chief of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, called on members to go to the palace, implying that if police would not protect it, FJP and Brotherhood members would do so themselves. "If state agencies are weak and still damaged by the wounds of the past, the people can impose their will and protect legitimacy. Members of the FJP will be on the frontline, God-willing," he posted on his public Facebook page.
The president's supporters pushed out the protesters who had camped beside the palace, and dismantled their tents. Clashes between the two sides began that afternoon.
Brotherhood adviser Gehad al Haddad, who was present during the clashes, says during the night there was a vicious attack on the president's supporters carried out by "thugs" armed with guns, and that police did nothing to stop the violence. HRW says in its report that both sides were armed. The Brotherhood says all of the 11 deaths were either Brotherhood members or people who were on the Brotherhood side of the clashes, though the opposition disputes that.
During the clashes, Brotherhood members and supporters began capturing protesters from the other side. According to Mr. Haddad, they were capturing the armed thugs who had attacked them. Multiple protesters said they were apprehended by the president's supporters, who beat them, bound them, and then detained 49 of them in an area in front of the gate to the presidential palace, where they interrogated them. The questions aimed at extracting confessions of being paid by opposition leaders to attack the Brotherhood.
Ordeal of those nabbed
Ramy Sabry, a pharmacist, says he was at the protest to provide medical aid to those hurt in the fighting. He was on the opposition side of the chaotic clashes around 1 a.m. on the morning of Dec 6. when a group of Morsi supporters captured him. They grabbed him and pushed him all the way to the presidential palace, which took about 10 minutes, he says.
"On the way, I was attacked by everything they carried. Some had wooden sticks, some metal rods, someone had a knife because I have a cut on my face. They beat me the entire way there until I reached the palace. Then they tied me up."
Mr. Sabry says there were around 10 or 15 other captured protesters in an area cordoned off by riot police when he arrived, but their numbers swelled to 49 by the afternoon. "They tried to make me confess I got money from ElBaradei or Hamdeen to attack them and the palace," he says, referring to two opposition leaders and former presidential candidates who joined an opposition coalition against the president's recent moves. "I insisted that I am not getting any money. I am here because I am against the constitutional decree, and I have the right to protest."
When he would not confess, they left him and tried the same tactics on the other bound protesters, slapping them and kicking them while questioning them, he says. Several of those detained were children, he says. After around ten hours, his captors agreed to tie his hands in front of his body instead of behind his back, because he was in great pain, he says