Morsi Supporters Fear Nearing Crackdown On Islamist Groups

There have been more mass protests in Cairo and other cities. Analysts fear more violence amid expectations of a crackdown on Islamists by the army and police.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

In Egypt, the ousted president, Mohammed Morsi, has been formally detained, pending an investigation into a string of charges. Those charges include murder, arson and conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Also today, rival groups of protesters filled Egypt's streets.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Foreign language spoken)

SIEGEL: Some people came out in response to appeals from the country's military chief for a popular mandate to confront, as he said, terrorism and violence. Other rallied in support of Morsi. And tonight, security forces are vowing to clear out his supporters.

NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Cairo. And, Leila, what's the scene in Egypt's capital and elsewhere late tonight?

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: At this point, we're seeing hundreds of thousands of people still out on the streets, but we have seen some serious violence in the port city of Alexandria, where are least seven people are dead and hundreds of others wounded in clashes between supporters and opponents of the president, both blaming the other for starting the violence.

SIEGEL: Yes, it sounds as though lots of Egyptians heeded the call from the military chief, General al-Sisi, to march today.

FADEL: They did. We're seeing hundreds of thousands here in Cairo still tonight honking horns, dancing around huge pictures of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi saying - these signs, a lot of them saying "this is the man we trust." And I just want you to listen to a moment, to an engineer I spoke to named Hisham Kamal about why he came out.

HISHAM KAMAL: They have to learn that I mean to be different is not to be aggressive and be violent. So, I mean, this is our idea.

FADEL: So he's speaking about supporters of the ousted president, Morsi. He's saying that they heeded the call to back up a popular mandate against terrorism because they don't want violence. They don't want these supporters in the streets any longer.

SIEGEL: Now, Mohammed Morsi has been in military custody since he was ousted on July 3rd. Now he is in formal detention. What does that mean?

FADEL: Well basically, the moment that Morsi was ousted he went incommunicado. He went into military custody, but there were no legal proceedings against him. There was a huge outcry from the international community about the detention of this former head of state. And so this is the first time that we're seeing legal proceedings against the ousted president and possible charges going forward.

SIEGEL: The charges that we heard about today seem to date back to 2011, to the beginning of the Egyptian revolution, and it's a very wide range: arson, murder, conspiracy, collusion with the Palestinian group Hamas. What are these charges all about?

FADEL: Well, it's a huge string of charges. The main charge is that he collaborated with the Palestinian militant group Hamas to break out of prison, that he killed other prisoners, killed police, killed soldiers, set fire to prisons, broke into police stations. All these charges - and this was at a very chaotic time when people were rising up against Hosni Mubarak and Egyptians - fighting street battles with the police. They were breaking into police stations and state security buildings. And so, his supporters say these are trumped-up charges. These are politicized. This is all a game in order to make sure that this president doesn't come back. I'd like you to hear from a woman I met today among pro-Morsi supporters named Rania Farouk(ph).

RANIA FAROUK: We don't know where is our president. We don't know anything. Sisi, he is lying. He's lying on us.

SIEGEL: Sisi being General Sisi, the defense minister and the head of the armed forces. It sounds as though Egypt is as divided as ever tonight.

FADEL: It truly is. It really feels like two different Egypts. We're seeing a lot more people out in support of the call from Sisi, but a very emboldened minority saying they are going to stay in the squares. They are going to continue to fight for what they see as democracy. And people close to the ousted president that I've been able to speak to say really this moment has hardened the lines, that they were talking about negotiations prior to Sisi's call and now that's made it that much more difficult.

SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo. Leila, thank you and goodnight.

FADEL: Thank you.

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