Cairo: Tens of thousands of supporters of ousted president Mohammad Mursi gathered Friday vowing to keep fighting for his reinstatement, as rival rallies defending his overthrow underlined Egypt’s bitter divisions.
The rallies come as Germany called for the release of Mursi, who is being held in a “safe place, for his safety” and has not yet been charged, according to the foreign ministry.
“We call for an end to the restrictions on Mr Mursi’s whereabouts,” a German foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.
With an Egyptian flag in one hand and a Quran in the other, protesters gathered outside the Rabi’ Al Adawiya mosque in Cairo’s Nasr City neighbourhood chanted against the military and pledged allegiance to Mursi.
“We will continue to resist. We will stay one or two months, or even one or two years. We won’t leave here until our president, Mohammad Mursi, comes back,” influential Islamist leader Safwat Hijazi told the crowd.
“We will stay in the square. We are free revolutionaries and we will continue our journey,” he shouted.
Hijazi laid down their demands as the reinstatement of Egypt’s first freely elected president, immediate parliamentary elections and a committee to oversee a plan for national reconciliation.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the influential Islamist group from which Mursi emerged, is now in tatters with much of its leadership detained, on the run or keeping a low profile following Mursi’s July 3 overthrow by the military.
Pro-Mursi protesters arrived from across the country to join hundreds already camped out at the Rabi’ Al Adawiya mosque.
The anti-Mursi camp has also called for huge rallies after Friday prayers, in Tahrir Square and at the Ittihadiya presidential palace, with a mass iftar - the breaking of the Muslim fast - planned at sundown in the central plaza.
The restive Sinai peninsula, home to Egypt’s luxury Red Sea resorts, has been hit by a surge of violence, with militants killing a police officer in a rocket attack on a checkpoint early on Friday, security and medical officials said.
A Coptic Christian man was found decapitated on Thursday five days after being kidnapped, and on Wednesday, two people died in a militant attack on a security checkpoint in the Sinai and a police base was mortared.
Police are hunting Brotherhood chief Mohammad Badie and other senior leaders suspected of inciting deadly violence, after arrest warrants were issued on Wednesday.
The public prosecutor has pressed charges against 200 of 650 people detained during Monday’s violence.
A US State Department spokeswoman said the arrests were “not in line with the national reconciliation” the interim government and military say they want, adding that if they continued “it is hard to see how Egypt will move beyond this crisis”.
The German ministry spokesman said a “trusted institution” such as the International Committee of the Red Cross should be granted access to Mursi.
“We and our partners are of the opinion that any appearance of selective justice in Egypt must be avoided and there must be no political persecution,” he said.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s interim authorities nominated lawyer Ziad Bahaa Al Din, who is a member of the leftist Egyptian Social Democratic Party, as deputy prime minister, Prime Minister Hazeem Beblawi said on Friday.
“I have chosen Dr Bahaa Al Din as deputy prime minister and sent the nomination to the president,” Beblawi said, adding he was holding talks with other candidates for his new cabinet that he expects to be formed within a few days.
Economist Beblawi was named prime minister to lead an army-backed government following the military’s overthrow of elected Islamist President Mohammad Mursi on July 3.