Rallies held in Egypt over imminent referendum

2012-12-11 23:30:59 GMT2012-12-12 07:30:59(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Supporters and opponents of Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi held rallies Tuesday across the country, reflecting a bitter division among the nation.

Thousands of Morsi's supporters, mainly members of Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Islamists, rallied outside Rabia al- Adawiya Mosque at Nasr City in Cairo, raising signs and chanting slogans in support of a recent constitutional declaration issued by Morsi and the upcoming constitutional referendum slated for Dec. 15. They dubbed their protests as "Yes for legitimacy."

Safaa al-Sayed, a 31-year-old female pro-Morsi protester, told Xinhua that she participated in the rally to support Morsi and the draft constitution.

Aisha Ali, an 18-year-old veiled protester, told Xinhua that she did not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafists. "The opponents protest against everything the president does, and they want us to return to the zero point," she complained.

At the same day, opponents marched towards the presidential palace in Cairo, raising national flags and signs reading "No for the constitution," "No for Morsi" and "No for the Brotherhood rule. "

Although most roads and streets to the palace were blocked by cement walls or barbed wires, thousands of anti-Morsi protesters gathered outside the palace, posing challenge to presidential guards and security staff.

"We are here to say 'No' to Morsi and his group the Muslim Brotherhood, which want to control the country's institutions and dominate power," said one of those protesters outside the presidential palace named Hossam Mamdouh, 23.

Marian, a 28-year-old Copt protester, said that "Morsi is a president for the Muslim Brotherhood, not for all Egyptians," adding that she would vote against the draft constitution as the constitution-writing panel did not represent all Egyptians, particularly the Copts whose church withdrew from the Constituent Assembly. The protesters also broke a metal barrier erected on one of the streets leading to the presidential palace, while others were attempting to pull down another wall of cement blocks, making the presidential guards retreat to the palace walls.

In the iconic Tahrir Square, the ongoing marches of anti-Morsi protesters showed up to express rejection of the upcoming constitutional referendum.

Also, Tahrir protesters were reportedly terrified by three masked gunmen shooting in the air, injuring some protesters who accused pro-Morsi Islamists of doing so. However, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghuzlan denied and said that "all Islamists know the prohibition of bloodshed and they cannot assault peaceful protesters."

Meanwhile, a number of Islamists led by Salafist Hazem Salah Abou Ismail, a former presidential candidate, continue their sit- in outside the Media Production City at the outskirts of Cairo in support of Morsi against "the corrupted media."

Another crisis related to the upcoming constitutional referendum looms on the horizon, as chairman of Egypt's Judges' Club Ahmed al-Zend said that "90 percent of Egyptian judges refuse to supervise the referendum." Al-Zend added that the draft constitution violates the independency of judiciary, slamming a movement of independent judges named "Judges in the interest of Egypt" for approving referendum supervision. He also condemned the ongoing Islamist sit- in outside the Constitutional Court as threatening judiciary.

For its part, Egyptian presidency renewed calls for opposition to take part in another national dialogue meeting Wednesday to reach agreement and reunite Egyptians ahead of the referendum.

In response, former diplomat and liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei, the leader of the opposition National Salvation Front, which refused a previous invitation for dialogue, asked Morsi "to cancel or at least delay the constitutional referendum until a national agreement is reached."

Egypt is set to hold a referendum on the controversial draft constitution on Saturday, despite the opposition's call for a nationwide protest. Morsi has given the army the power to arrest civilians, calling them to help the police maintain the security of the referendum.

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