Mahmoud Badr, the activist whose petition campaign helped to bring down Egypt's Islamist president, says the bloodshed that has followed is a high but acceptable price for saving the nation from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Badr's staunch defense of the army, despite the deaths of almost 800 people in the past three days, shows how many Egyptians who consider themselves liberals are sitting back and watching what human rights campaigners say is one setback for democracy and the rule of law after another.
"What Egypt is passing through now is the price, a high price, of getting rid of the Brotherhood's fascist group before it takes over everything and ousts us all," Badr, 28, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Badr and his two twenty-something co-founders of the "Tamarud-Rebel" movement encouraged millions of Egyptians to take to the streets in protests demanding the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.
The army removed Morsi on July 3 and violence has erupted across the country this week as security forces cracked down on Brotherhood supporters demanding his reinstatement.
Badr, a journalist, believes the pivotal Arab nation could be descending into civil war. But he still thinks ousting Egypt's first freely-elected president was the right decision and defended the military's conduct in the violent aftermath.
"I did not see anything bad from the army. They did not interfere in politics and I am a witness to that," said Badr. "I back its decisions on my own and without any instructions as I think they are right and getting us where we want."
Like the army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Badr sees the Brotherhood as a terrorist group that is a threat to Egypt, which straddles the Suez Canal and whose 1979 peace treaty with Israel makes it a vital factor in Middle East stability.
Brotherhood leaders have alleged that former cronies of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, himself ousted in a popular uprising in 2011, funded and encouraged Tamarud along with secret policemen.
Earlier this year Badr and his young associates succeeded in two months in launching a mass movement, armed only with laptops and mobile phones.
Tamarud activists scoured towns and villages collecting signatures on a red-printed petition demanding Morsi's departure. They say they got 22 million signatures, nine million more than Morsi's vote in the 2012 presidential election.
Security officials have advised Badr to stay out of sight at a secret location for his safety. He spends most of his time monitoring Egypt's political upheaval on television.
But Badr appeared on state TV in his trademark polo shirt and blue jeans this week, urging Egyptians to take to the streets and form "popular committees" to protect citizens from the Brotherhood.
At night, soldiers beside armored vehicles man checkpoints with barbed wire barricades. Groups of vigilantes, some as young as 16, block off roads and direct traffic.
ALLY OF THE MILITARY
Human rights activists fear Sisi and other generals will return Egypt to the oppression of the Mubarak era.
Interim vice president Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace prize winner, resigned in protest at the violent crackdown but other liberals did not follow suit.
Badr, who advocated democratic civilian rule when founding his movement in May, accused ElBaradei of undermining the uprising that toppled Mubarak. "His decision made the revolution look shaky and weak," he said. "What happened in Egypt was a revolution and any revolution has to have victims."
Badr says he has had no contact with the military since meeting Sisi on July 3 to discuss plans for a return to democracy in a room with generals, a senior Muslim cleric, the Coptic Christian pope, a top judge and opposition leaders.
"My role now is to act as a pressure group by observing the political transition and be ready to interfere if things go in the wrong direction," said Badr, who cut his political teeth in the 2011 uprising.
The Brotherhood, which won every election after Mubarak's fall, has called for more protests across the country, raising the possibility of further bloodshed.
For the next few weeks, Badr predicted "more violence and possible political assassinations" but added: "We will win over terrorism and civil war eventually." (Editing by Michael Georgy and David Stamp)