5 December 2012

Egypt's Protests Mount Against Controversial Decree

Opponents of Egyptian President, Mohammed Mursi yesterday December 5, 2012 ended their protests outside the presidential palace in the capital, Cairo and moved to Tahrir Square, the focal point of most protests in the city, the official Mena news agency reported. They have been protesting against a recent presidential decree which they say grants the Head of State wide-ranging powers.

The BBC reported that some protesters erected tents around the presidential palace perimeter wall after the previous day saw tens of thousands of demonstrators besiege the palace and clash with police. Ignoring volleys of tear gas, the protesters burst through two police lines to reach the palace, which was the site of the final act in the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last year, The London Telegraph newspaper said. Eighteen people were injured in the brief burst of violence, but none seriously. At one point, security forces issued a televised statement saying President Mursi had left the building for his own safety.

Also on Tuesday, at least eight influential daily newspapers - a mix of opposition party mouthpieces and independent publications - suspended publication for a day to protest against what many journalists see as restrictions on freedom of expression in the draft constitution, Al Jazeera TV reported. Many of those who gathered outside the presidential palace in the suburb of Heliopolis, chanted slogans similar to those directed against the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak during the uprising in February 2011.

President Morsi decreed sweeping new powers for himself on November 22, 2012 and stripped the judiciary of any power to challenge his decisions. He has also called a nationwide referendum for December 15, 2012 on a new constitution, which opponents say has been rushed through and fails to protect the rights of minorities, particularly women. Dr Mursi however won a significant victory on Monday December 3, 2012 when the Supreme Judicial Council decided that judges should not go ahead with their threat to boycott supervision of the referendum.

The Moslem Brotherhood - to which President Mursi belongs - insists the constitution contains basic rights and freedoms, including those of speech and belief, as well as recognising Egypt's Moslem culture. Dr Mursi, who narrowly won Egypt's first free presidential election last June, says he will give up his new powers once a new constitution is ratified. His actions have brought tens of thousands of people into the streets in recent days - including both his supporters and opponents.

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