Cairo

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CAIRO  — A statement on the Egyptian presidental office's Twitter account has quoted Mohammed Morsi as calling military measures "a full coup."

The denouncement was posted shortly after the Egyptian military announced it was ousting Morsi, who was Egypt's first freely elected leader though he drew ire with his Islamist leanings. The military says it has replaced him with the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, called for early presidential election and suspended the Islamist-backed constitution.

Morsi was quoted as saying those measures "represent a full coup categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation."

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Egypt's military has ousted the nation's Islamist president, replacing him with the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, calling for early presidential election and suspending the Islamist-backed constitution.

Army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, said a government of technocrats will be appointed to run the country during a transition period he did not specify.

An aide of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Ayman Ali, said the former leader has been moved to an undisclosed location. He gave no details.

Cheers erupted among millions of protesters nationwide who were demanding Morsi's ouster. Fireworks lit the Cairo night sky. Morsi supporters elsewhere in the city shouted "No to military rule."

A member part of the Black Bloc holds the Egyptian national flag during clashes with riot police near Tahrir Square, in Cairo, on Monday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Protesters battled police for hours in Cairo on Monday and thousands marched through Egypt’s three Suez Canal cities in direct defiance of a nighttime curfew and state of emergency, handing a blow to the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi’s attempts to contain five days of spiraling political violence.

Nearly 60 people have been killed in the wave of unrest, clashes, rioting and protests that have touched cities across the country but have hit the hardest in the canal cities, where residents have virtually risen up in outright revolt.

The latest death came on Monday in Cairo, where a protester died of gunshot wounds as youths hurling stones battled all day and into the night with police firing tear gas near Qasr el-Nil Bridge, a landmark over the Nile next to major hotels. In nearby Tahrir Square, protesters set fire to a police armored personnel carrier, celebrating as it burned in scenes reminiscent of the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

“I will be coming back here every day until the blood of our martyrs is avenged,” said 19-year-old carpenter Islam Nasser, who wore a Guy Fawkes mask as he battled police near Tahrir square.

Angry and at times screaming and wagging his finger, Morsi on Sunday declared a 30-day state of emergency and a nighttime curfew on the three Suez Canal cities of Suez, Ismailiya and Port Said and their provinces of the same names. He said he had instructed the police to deal “firmly and forcefully” with the unrest and threatened to do more if security was not restored.

But when the 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew began Monday evening, crowds marched through the streets of Port Said, beating drums and chanting, “Erhal, erhal,” or “Leave, leave” — a chant that first rang out during the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 but is now directed at Morsi.

CAIRO — A Cairo appeals court on Sunday overturned Hosni Mubarak’s life sentence and ordered a retrial of the former Egyptian president for failing to prevent the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising that toppled his regime.

The ruling put the spotlight back on the highly divisive issue of justice for the former leader and his top security officers.

Mubarak, who is currently being held in a military hospital, will remain in custody while under investigation in an unrelated case.

The court did not provide the reasoning for its ruling, but was expected to do so later. No date has been set for the retrial.

An Egyptian Army tank deploys outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt. The Egyptian army sealed off the presidential palace Thursday as protesters defied a deadline to vacate the area, pressing forward with demands that Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi rescind decrees giving himself near-absolute power and withdraw a disputed draft constitution.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — An angry Mohammed Morsi refused Thursday to call off a referendum on a disputed constitution that has sparked Egypt’s worst political crisis in two years, drawing chants of “topple the regime!” from protesters who waved their shoes in contempt.

The Egyptian president’s uncompromising stand came a night after thousands of his supporters and opponents fought pitched battles outside his Cairo palace, leaving at least six dead and 700 injured.

Speaking in a nationally televised address, Morsi accused some in the opposition of serving remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime and vowed he would never tolerate anyone working for the overthrow of his “legitimate” government.

That brought shouts of “the people want to topple the regime!” from the crowd of 30,000 Morsi opponents — the same chant used in the protests that brought down Mubarak.

Morsi also invited the opposition to a “comprehensive and productive” dialogue starting Saturday at his presidential palace, but gave no sign that he might offer any meaningful concessions.

The opposition has already refused to engage Morsi unless he first rescinds decrees giving him nearly unrestricted powers and shelves the draft constitution hurriedly adopted by his Islamist allies in a marathon session last week.

Morsi said the referendum on the disputed charter would go ahead as scheduled on Dec. 15. He also refused to rescind the Nov. 22 decrees.

Reading from prepared notes, Morsi frequently broke off to improvise. He wore a black tie in mourning for the six people killed in Wednesday’s clashes.

Earlier Thursday, Morsi’s troubles grew when another of his advisers quit to protest his handling of the crisis, raising the number of those in his 17-person inner circle who have abandoned him to seven. The only Christian in a group of four presidential assistants has also quit.

Violence persisted into the night, with a group of protesters attacking the Cairo headquarters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, ransacking the ground floor. Another group of protesters attacked the Brotherhood’s offices in the Cairo district of Maadi. Outside the president’s house in his hometown of Zagazig, 50 miles north of Cairo, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters, security officials said.

During his speech, Morsi repeated earlier assertions that a conspiracy against the state was behind his move to assume near unrestricted powers, but he did not reveal any details of the plot.

“It is my duty ... to protect institutions of the nation,” he said. “I will always fulfill this role, no matter how much pressure or what the situation.”

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters, background, and opponents, foreground, clash outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Wednesday’s clashes began when thousands of Islamist supporters of Morsi descended on the area around the palace where some 300 of his opponents were staging a sit-in. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Egypt descended into political turmoil Wednesday over the constitution drafted by Islamist allies of President Mohammed Morsi. At least 211 people were wounded as supporters and opponents battled each other with firebombs, rocks and sticks outside the presidential palace.

Wednesday’s clashes began when thousands of Morsi’s Islamist supporters descended on an area near the presidential palace where some 300 of his opponents were staging a sit-in. The Islamists, members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, chased the protesters away from their base outside the palace’s main gate and tore down their tents. The Islamists portrayed their attack on opposition protesters as defense of the revolution.

The clashes outside the presidential palace in Cairo’s Heliopolis district marked an escalation in the deepening crisis. It was the first time supporters of rival camps fought each other since last year’s anti-Mubarak uprising, when the authoritarian leader’s loyalists sent sword-wielding supporters on horses and camels into Cairo’s Tahrir square in what became one of the uprising’s bloodiest days.

The large scale and intensity of the fighting marked a milestone in Egypt’s rapidly entrenched schism, pitting Morsi’s Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Islamists in one camp, against liberals, leftists and Christians in the other. The violence spread to other parts of the country later Wednesday.

Compounding Morsi’s woes, four of his advisers resigned, joining two other members of his 17-member advisory panel who have abandoned him since the crisis began.

The opposition is demanding that Morsi rescind the decrees giving him nearly unrestricted powers and shelve the controversial draft constitution the president’s Islamist allies rushed through last week in a marathon, all-night session shown live on state TV.

The huge scale of the opposition protests has dealt a blow to the legitimacy of the new charter, which opponents contend allows religious authorities too much influence over legislation, threatens to restrict freedom of expression and opens the door to Islamist control over day-to-day life.

If the referendum goes ahead as scheduled and the draft constitution is adopted, elections for parliament’s lawmaking lower chamber will be held in February.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters, background, and opponents, foreground, clash outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Wednesday’s clashes began when thousands of Islamist supporters of Morsi descended on the area around the palace where some 300 of his opponents were staging a sit-in. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Egypt descended into political turmoil Wednesday over the constitution drafted by Islamist allies of President Mohammed Morsi. At least 211 people were wounded as supporters and opponents battled each other with firebombs, rocks and sticks outside the presidential palace.

Wednesday’s clashes began when thousands of Morsi’s Islamist supporters descended on an area near the presidential palace where some 300 of his opponents were staging a sit-in. The Islamists, members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, chased the protesters away from their base outside the palace’s main gate and tore down their tents. The Islamists portrayed their attack on opposition protesters as defense of the revolution.

The clashes outside the presidential palace in Cairo’s Heliopolis district marked an escalation in the deepening crisis. It was the first time supporters of rival camps fought each other since last year’s anti-Mubarak uprising, when the authoritarian leader’s loyalists sent sword-wielding supporters on horses and camels into Cairo’s Tahrir square in what became one of the uprising’s bloodiest days.

The large scale and intensity of the fighting marked a milestone in Egypt’s rapidly entrenched schism, pitting Morsi’s Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Islamists in one camp, against liberals, leftists and Christians in the other. The violence spread to other parts of the country later Wednesday.

Compounding Morsi’s woes, four of his advisers resigned, joining two other members of his 17-member advisory panel who have abandoned him since the crisis began.

The opposition is demanding that Morsi rescind the decrees giving him nearly unrestricted powers and shelve the controversial draft constitution the president’s Islamist allies rushed through last week in a marathon, all-night session shown live on state TV.

The huge scale of the opposition protests has dealt a blow to the legitimacy of the new charter, which opponents contend allows religious authorities too much influence over legislation, threatens to restrict freedom of expression and opens the door to Islamist control over day-to-day life.

If the referendum goes ahead as scheduled and the draft constitution is adopted, elections for parliament’s lawmaking lower chamber will be held in February.

A protester is detained by security forces in front of the Saudi Embassy in Cairo during a demonstration to demand the release of a human rights lawyer detained in Saudi Arabia for allegedly insulting the monarch.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia closed its Cairo embassy Saturday and recalled its ambassador following protests over a detained Egyptian human rights lawyer in a sharp escalation of tension between two regional powerhouses already on shaky terms due to uprisings in the Arab world.

The unexpected Saudi diplomatic break came following days of protests by hundreds of Egyptians outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo and consulates in other cities to demand the release of Ahmed el-Gezawi. Relatives and human rights groups say he was detained for allegedly insulting the kingdom’s monarch.

Saudi authorities denied that and said he was arrested for trying to smuggle anti-anxiety drugs into the conservative oil-rich kingdom.

The collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime last year in Egypt stunned Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, which saw it as a sign of its own potential vulnerabilities and how Western backing can suddenly shift away from longtime allies.

Saudi officials have increasingly viewed Egypt’s post-revolution trajectory — particularly the political gains by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood — as worrisome trends that could encourage greater opposition in the Gulf.

A full break in ties between Cairo and Riyadh appears unlikely as the Arab League deals with the complicated showdown between protesters and the regime in Syria. But the deepening rifts underscore profound changes in the region’s hierarchy with Gulf states using their influence and relative stability to exert more leverage over wider Mideast affairs.

Egypt swiftly tried to contain the Saudi snub.

Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, was in touch with the Saudis to “heal the rift following the sudden decision,” the Egyptian official news agency said.

Tantawi asked King Abdullah to reconsider the decision, the Saudi news agency reported. The news agency said the king would look into the matter in the coming days and cited the two countries’ “long history of friendly relations.”

The Egyptian government issued a statement expressing its “regret” for the behavior of some of the protesters, and noted that the government and Egyptian people hold Saudi Arabia in “great esteem.”

The Egyptian news agency also published a copy of what it said was a signed confession by el-Gezawi admitting to drug possession, in a clear attempt to mute Egyptian public anger.

But the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is jockeying with Egypt’s military rulers for power, supported the demonstrators.

“The protesters in the past days were expressing the desire of Egyptians to protect the dignity of their compatriots in Arab countries and a reflection that disregard for the dignity of Egyptians abroad is no longer acceptable after the revolution,” the group said in a statement.

It was worst diplomatic tiff between the two regional powerhouses since Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries broke off diplomatic ties with Egypt after it signed a peace deal with Israel in 1979.

Diplomatic relations were restored in 1987.

Under Mubarak, the two regional powerhouses generally had strong relations.

But el-Gezawi’s case revived long-standing resentment over the treatment of Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, which is a destination for more than a million Egyptians searching for better jobs.

The lawyer flew to Jiddah on his way to perform a minor pilgrimage, called umrah, to Islam’s holy shrines in the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina, said his sister Shereen el-Gezawi. The fact that he was arrested on his way to perform a religious rite further enflamed Egyptian sentiment.

His family said he had been convicted in absentia and sentenced to a year in prison and 20 lashes by a Saudi court for insulting the king. However he was not notified of the court’s ruling ahead of his Saudi trip. El-Gezawi had earlier filed a lawsuit in Egypt against King Abdullah over the alleged arbitrary detention of hundreds of Egyptians.

As Arab uprisings have toppled four longtime Middle Eastern rulers, Saudi Arabia has been worried about signs of rebellion within its borders. Authorities have met attempts to advocate for more rights, as el-Gezawi has done, or question the monarchy’s authority with strong opposition.

Many Egyptians suspect the drug case against el-Gezawi was trumped up.

El-Gezawi’s friend and lawyer Mohammed Nabil, dismissed reports el-Gezawi was smuggling drugs and said the lawyer may have confessed under duress. The lawyer’s wife visited him Friday and is due to return to Cairo late Saturday, Nabil said.

Outside the Cairo embassy earlier this week, protesters chanted, “Down, down with Al-Saud!” referring to the Saudi royal family and “Screw you, your majesty!” in reference to the aging Saudi monarch.

The demonstrators called for the expulsion of the Saudi ambassador in Cairo, and some raised their shoes alongside a picture of Abdullah, a sign of deep contempt in the Arab world. In the consulate in the port city of Suez, protesters blocked staff from leaving Thursday, prompting the military to evacuate them.

The Saudi news agency, quoting a foreign ministry official, said the protests were “unjustified” and attempts to storm the missions threatened the safety of diplomatic staff.

The agency also said the ambassador was recalled for “consultation.”

An Egyptian government official said the decision was largely motivated by security concerns over the protests. A staff member in a Saudi consulate said the offices will be closed indefinitely.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive situation.

The Saudi ambassador had previously filed a police report against protesters from a youth group, accusing them of sabotaging his embassy during an unrelated protest.

Egyptian protesters also questioned whether the Egyptian government is doing enough to protect its citizens abroad. They rallied outside the Foreign Ministry in Cairo, demanding the Egyptian ambassador in Saudi Arabia be questioned over his handling of el-Gezawi’s case.

Many activists claim Egypt curbs its criticism so as not to alienate the wealthy kingdom or endanger Egyptian jobs there.

Printed on Monday, April 30, 2012 as: Saudi Arabia closes embassy in Egypt.

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Tuesday upheld a conviction against one of the Arab world’s most famous comedians, sentencing him to jail for offending Islam in some of his most popular films.

The case against Adel Imam and others like it have raised concerns among some Egyptians that ultraconservative Muslims who made gains in recent elections after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster last year are trying to foist their religious views on the entire country. Critics say the trend threatens to curb Egypt’s vibrant film industry and freedom of speech.

Imam was sentenced to three months in jail and fined around $170 for insulting Islam in roles he played in movies such as “The Terrorist”, in which he acted the role of a wanted terrorist who found refuge with a middle class, moderate family, and the film “Terrorism and Kabab.”
The actor was also found guilty for his 2007 role in “Morgan Ahmed Morgan,” in which Imam played a corrupt businessman who tries to buy a university diploma. The film included a scene parodying bearded Muslim men wearing traditional Islamic clothing.

Author Alaa al-Aswany, whose best-seller “The Yacoubian Building” was turned into a film costarring Imam, said the court ruling sets Egypt back to the “darkness of the Middle Ages.”

“This is an unimaginable crime of principle in developed nations,” he said in remarks posted on his Twitter account Tuesday.

The case is one of many brought by conservative lawyers in recent months seeking to punish individuals they deem as having offended Islam. Earlier this year, two courts rejected blasphemy cases against Christian media mogul, Naguib Sawiris, after he relayed a cartoon online of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie in a face veil.

The cases highlight the newfound sense of empowerment among followers of the ultraconservative Salafi trend of Islam in Egypt after Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising. Their newly formed Al-Nour party won 25 percent of seats in parliament, emerging as the second most powerful group in Egypt after the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood.

The mere filing of such blasphemy cases by Salafi lawyers has raised concern among rights groups and liberals about attempts to curb freedom of speech.

Egyptian entertainment reporter Tarek el-Shinnawi said the case against Imam is a setback for Cairo’s famed film industry, which has produced the region’s most popular films.

“It will make any writer, director or actor think before considering the role of a Muslim figure,” el-Shinnawi said.

Imam was initially found guilty in February in a case brought by an ultraconservative Islamist lawyer. He was given a retrial since he was first tried in absentia. He did not appear in court Tuesday but his lawyers did. Imam has the right to appeal.

Under Mubarak, government censors controlled what could be shown in theaters or filmed by major studios. The films Imam starred in were approved by the censors.

El-Shinnawi argued that a legally sound case would involve the writers and directors, and the censors who approved the movies, not just the star of the films.

Imam, 71, has acted in dozens of films in a career that spans nearly 50 years.

Long a beloved figured in Egypt, Imam lost popularity among Egyptian protesters for supporting Mubarak during last year’s 18-day revolt.

In one of his most popular roles, Imam played an Arab dictator in a 1998 satirical play called el-Zaeem. The play has since been aired on satellite television across the Arab world, bypassing state censors and gaining popularity through its comedic take of a tyrannical figure.

Printed on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 as: Egypt court convicts comedian for offending Islam through film

Fans of Al-ahly soccer club rally during the trial of defendants charged with the Port Said stadium killings of 75 soccer fans outside the courtroom in Cairo, Egypt Tuesday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Fans charged in Egypt’s deadliest soccer riot declared their innocence in the first session of their trial Tuesday, directing their anger toward police, charged with collaborating in the killing of 75 supporters of a rival team.

Nine senior officers, including six police generals and a colonel, are among the 73 people charged in the case. The officers were present in the courtroom, dressed in traditional white defendant uniforms, but they were not held in the courtroom cage with the rest of those on trial.

If the police are convicted, it would further fuel widespread speculation that the country’s much-despised Interior Ministry force allowed the bloody Feb. 1 attack on fans of a soccer club with which they have a long antagonistic history.

Most of the defendants are fans of Al-Masry, the main sports club in the Mediterranean city of Port Said, where the attack took place. The majority of the victims were fans of a rival team, Cairo’s Al-Ahly, whose supporters are credited with playing a major role in the 18-day popular uprising that toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak last year.

Survivors of the attack charge that police allowed the attack by Al-Masry fans to deteriorate into bloodshed. Others have suggested that former regime loyalists hired thugs to infiltrate the stadium and kill Al-Ahly fans.

“Where is Mubarak?” the defendants chanted, reflecting their suspicions against the ousted regime and the justice system in Egypt.

The hearing took place in the same courtroom where Mubarak has faced charges related to the deaths of hundreds of protesters in the uprising.

“We will get them their justice or die like them,” the defendants in the courtroom cage shouted, fists pumping in the air as they referred to those killed in the riots.

One defendant told the presiding judges he had been called in by police as a witness but was arrested instead.

“They fooled me and brought me in as a witness ... and told me if I point people out they will release me,” he said.

Outside the courtroom, hundreds of Al-Ahly fans held photos of those killed and raised posters that said, “I will never forget justice for our brothers.” Some wore black T-shirts with the words, “We were killed in Port Said.”

The 30-minute killing frenzy in Port Said broke out when Al-Masry fans stormed the field just seconds after the final whistle blew, even though the home team won the match.

What happened next is not entirely clear, but according to witnesses and survivors, Al-Ahly fans were attacked with batons, knives, fireworks and other weapons. Some were tossed from the tops of bleachers. Others said they were stripped and Port Said fans carved slogans into their skin.

The lights at the stadium were abruptly turned off and the exit doors closed during the melee, forcing a stampede down a narrow corridor. The stadium gate, which was locked from the outside, was forced open by the crowd. Dozens were crushed to death there, including fans of Al-Masry. The youngest victim was 14 years old.

Prosecutor Mahmoud al-Hennawy said the attack that night was “planned” both by Al-Masry fans and thugs.

“The cutting off of the light in the stadium was intentional, and the proof is that Al-Ahly fans were thrown off bleachers and the main cause of deaths were the presence of thugs,” al-Hennawy said.

Some of the defendants face murder charges. The officers have been charged with assisting the attackers. They could face up to 10 years in prison.

Most of the victims were from Al-Ahly’s “Ultras”, an organization of the club’s most hardcore fans.

Some believe the security forces stood by to punish the Al-Ahly Ultras for their high-profile involvement in the uprising against Mubarak and in subsequent protests against Egypt’s military rulers.

Others attribute the violence in Port Said to negligence. Security forces at the stadium did little during the attack. Beforehand, they failed in routine security measures like searching fans for weapons, though both sides threatened violence.In addition to fans and police, the manager of the stadium and the technician in charge of the lights have been charged. The trial is scheduled to resume May 5.

After the riot, Egypt imposed a two-year ban on Al-Masry, while this year’s club season has been suspended.

Published on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 as: Fans proclaim thier innocence in Egypt soccer attack scandal

CAIRO, Egypt — Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church who led Egypt’s Christian minority for 40 years during a time of increasing tensions with Muslims, died Saturday. He was 88.

His death comes as the country’s estimated 10 million Christians are feeling more vulnerable than ever amid the rise of Islamic movements to political power after the toppling a year ago of President Hosni Mubarak. The months since have seen a string of attacks on the community, heightened anti-Christian rhetoric by ultraconservatives known as Salafis and fears that coming goverments will try to impose strict versions of Islamic law.

Tens of thousands of Christians packed into the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo on Saturday evening hoping to see his body. Women in black wept and screamed. Some, unable to get into the overcrowded building, massed outside, raising their hands in prayer.