by Heather Murdock
As diplomats call for a peaceful settlement between supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the military-backed interim government, Muslim Brotherhood leaders say there will be no compromise.
Walls of sandbags have been rising around an encampment of Morsi’s supporters, who plan more marches in Cairo into the evening.
At the edge of the pro-Morsi protest camp, some men shoveled sand into bags while dozens of others guarded the gates, many carrying sticks and wearing hard-hats as they searched bags and patted down anyone attempting to enter.
Several blocks into the camp, past the staging area where rallies calling for Morsi’s reinstatement have been held daily for weeks, is the camp’s media center.
Osama Morsi, the ousted president’s son, told VOA at the center that his family has not heard anything about his father’s health, safety or whereabouts since July 3, when the Egyptian army declared it was removing him from office after public opinion turned against him.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters view the move as a military coup.
Osama Morsi said his family is planning to ask the International Criminal Court to charge army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and other military leaders with kidnapping, falsifying evidence and incommunicado incarceration.
Ashton meets Morsi
Meanwhile, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she met Monday night with the ousted president. Ashton said he was in good health but did not give many other details.
“We talked for two hours, we talked in depth,” she said. “He has access to information in terms of TV, newspapers, so we were able to talk about the situation, and we were able to talk about the need to move forward.”
Ashton is one of several top diplomats in the U.S., Europe and across the region calling for compromise between the military-backed interim government and the Muslim Brotherhood.
As thousands of protesters pray in the camp before beginning another long night of marches and rallies, however, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad said compromise will not end what has become a standoff between Morsi supporters and the Brotherhood on one side, and Sissi supporters and the army on the other.
Like some interim government supporters across town, Haddad said the only way to end what has become a nationwide standoff, is for the other side to back down.
“There is only one way for this to end,” he said. “The military coup has to be reversed. I mean even if that takes a couple of more months or even a year. We’re not going to leave here. They have no other option. They really don’t have another option.”
Haddad said the group plans to expand the camp now occupied by pro-Morsi supporters, despite orders to dismantle the tents, makeshift kitchens, clinics and a professional-looking stage.
Hundreds of people already have died in clashes since Morsi’s ouster, including nearly a hundred who died early Saturday just outside the camp.
The Muslim Brotherhood is planning to stage dozens of rallies across Cairo on Tuesday, and protesters in the camp say they expect more violence. The government has warned that any violations of the law will be dealt with “firmly.”
And while protesters vow that they are non-violent and unarmed, sandbags pile up around the tents and Morsi supporters say they will fight to protect the women and children inside.
Egypt demos continue
Mass demonstrations calling for an end to military rule continued overnight in Egypt after its interim government said it had told police to take “all necessary measures” to end protests by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. “The continuation of the dangerous situation in Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares, and consequent terrorism and road blockages are no longer acceptable given the threat to national security,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Following the announcement, the US state department urged Egypt to respect the right of peaceful assembly. Morsi’s supporters have been camped out in both squares demanding his reinstatement. “The government has decided to take all necessary measures to confront and end these dangers, and tasks the interior minister to do all that is necessary in this regard, in accordance with the constitution and law,” the statement read.
Al Jazeera’s Dorothy Parvaz, reporting from Cairo, said the statement from the government did not deter the protesters. “Despite the Cabinet decision to clear the sit-ins, a steady stream of people is pouring into the already crowded Rabaa vigil in Nasr City.” The interior ministry later clarified the statement, saying that police would take “gradual steps” to clear protesters.
Amnesty International said the government’s decision to mandate security forces to end the pro-Morsi rallies is a “recipe for further bloodshed”. “Given the Egyptian security forces’ record of policing demonstrations with the routine use of excessive and unwarranted lethal force, this latest announcement gives a seal of approval to further abuse,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty.
“The authorities as well as the security forces should start with an approach that avoids the use of force and is based on ‘methods of persuasion, negotiation and mediation’, as recommended by international standards,” Hadj Sahraoui added. Khalil Anani, a specialist on Islamist movements and the author of The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, speaking to Al Jazeera from Cairo, also said that the mandate had the potential to add fuel to the current political process and that he feels that violence and bloodshed can be expected over the following days.
He said he felt that that it would also complicate the political process. Minutes before the government handed out the statement, authorities said they referred the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, and two other senior movement officials to a court on charges of inciting violence. The move is certain to deepen tensions between Islamists and the military, who removed Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, from power on July 3. AL JAZEERA