CAIRO — Egypt’s military-backed government today ordered the police to clear two Cairo protest camps packed with supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, saying they posed a threat to national security and were “terrorizing” citizens.
The move signaled an imminent crackdown against the heavily barricaded sit-ins — one outside a mosque in eastern Cairo and another on the other side of the city near the main Cairo University campus — and raised the prospect of more violence after clashes broke out during previous action against the mainly Islamist protesters.
More than 260 people have been killed since Morsi was ousted by the military on July 3, leaving the country between those calling for his reinstatement and millions who marched against him and his Muslim Brotherhood in a show of support for the new political order.
Police have been instructed to end the protests “within the law and the constitution,” Information Minister Dorreya Sharaf el-Din said in a televised statement, although she did not specify a timeframe.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police, said the disbanding of the sit-ins will be carried out in gradual steps according to orders from prosecutors. “I hope they (Morsi supporters) resort to reason” and leave without authorities having to move in, he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
In a parallel move, prosecutors also referred three top Brotherhood leaders, including its fugitive spiritual leader Mohammed Badie, to trial for allegedly inciting the killing of anti-Morsi protesters last month.
The other two, who already are in detention, are Badie’s powerful deputy Khairat el-Shater and senior Brotherhood leader Rashad Bayoumi. They are accused of inciting the killing of at least eight protesters outside the Cairo headquarters of the Brotherhood on the night of June 30 and early the next day. No date has been set for the trial, which will be held before a criminal court.
Morsi was overthrown after just one year in office by the military on July 3 after mass rallies in which millions of Egyptians calling for his ouster took to the streets. Last week, millions of Egyptians rallied on the street again to give military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi a mandate to deal with violence and “potential terrorism.”