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Islamists, protesters clash outside Egyptian parliament

January 31, 2012 |  4:19 pm


REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- Hundreds of protesters demonstrating outside parliament Tuesday clashed with Muslim Brotherhood members, leaving more than 20 injured as tensions sharpened between Islamists and liberals over the fate of the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Confrontations began as demonstrators gathered near the gates of parliament while a session was underway. They chanted anti-Islamist slogans and accused the Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafis, who together control more than 70% of the seats in parliament, of abandoning the revolution and striking political deals with the country's ruling military council.

"The people want the downfall of the Brotherhood" and "Sell, sell, sell, sell the revolution, Badie," demonstrators chanted, referring to the Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mohamed Badie. 

The Brotherhood responded by dispatching scores of loyalists to form a cordon against protesters outside parliament. Shoving ensued and clashes broke out.

Assem Abdel Maged, an Islamist lawmaker, said protesters were planning to storm into parliament and attack lawmakers.

Mohamed Abdel Aziz, a member of the Kefaya movement, which took part in the protest, said Brotherhood members started the fighting.

"Some protesters believe strongly of a deal between Islamists and [the army] to abandon revolutionary demands," Aziz said. "We take to the streets to call on the parliament ... to start issuing regulations to fulfill revolutionary demands."

Protesters have been calling on parliament, which held its inaugural session Jan. 23, to demand that the military-backed government move Mubarak to a prison hospital during his ongoing trial on charges of complicity in the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators last year. Mubarak, who reportedly has heart problems, has been staying in a civilian hospital.

Protesters are also demanding that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces hand over power to the speaker of parliament until a president is elected in June. Maged, the Islamist lawmaker, denied there were deals between the military and Islamists, adding that parliament has only had three sessions, not enough time for it to challenge military policies.    

During Tuesday's session, however, a number Islamist and liberal legislators said they would seek to overturn a law passed by the military to regulate presidential elections. Mohamed Beltagy, a Muslim Brotherhood lawmaker, called the army's regulation a "unilateral" move that bypassed parliament.

"Let it be a clear message to the Egyptian street that parliament is the only unchallenged legislative authority," he said during the session.

Although protesters call for an immediate handing of power to civilian authority, Islamists have agreed to the military's timetable for presidential elections in June. The army, however, has asked a panel of technocrats for advice on possibly holding the vote a month earlier. This is viewed by analysts as an attempt to defuse protests and violence that have beset the country for months.


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Photo: Egyptian demonstrators gather outside the parliament building in Cairo on Tuesday. Credit: Agence France-Presse