Update: At least 49 injured in High Court clashes, say officials

Update: At least 49 injured in High Court clashes, say officials

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Fri, 19/04/2013 - 19:01

Central Security Forces have been deployed to the area around the High Court as violent clashes erupted between Muslim Brotherhood protesters and opposition activists, who hurled stones and exchanged birdshot at each other as Brotherhood members chanted, "God is great" and "Islamic, Islamic." Witnesses say the leaders of the Brotherhood protest urged the violence on, chanting, "Beat the thugs."

Violence was also ongoing in the Abdel Moneim Riad area, even as CSF troops fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse the protesters.

The Ambulence Authority reported that at least 49 have been injured so far.

The clashes ignited after opposition protesters in Tahrir Square headed to the square’s Abdel Moneim Riad Street entrance late Friday afternoon and set fire to buses that brought in Muslim Brotherhood protesters from the governorates into Cairo for a mass demonstration.

A march including 25 Black Bloc members arrived in Tahrir earlier, then headed to the High Court where the Brothers were staging their protest calling for purging the judiciary.

Another march staged by the Revolutionary Ultras arrived in the square coming from Qasr al-Nil Bridge, chanting against President Mohamed Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood. They marched around the square and shot off fireworks before they head to the High Court.

Clashes then broke out between the Muslim Brotherhood protesters and opposition activists. Both sides threw stones and bird shot was reportedly fired.

Ambulances and fire trucks were deployed to the site of the clashes to transport the injured to the hospital.

Earlier Friday afternoon, Muslim Brotherhood members demonstrating in front of the High Court ipainted the walls of the court complex, removing slogans painted by the April 6 Youth Movement and other opposition movements who had recently been demonstrating there to demand the release of political detainees.

The Brotherhood protesters chanted, "We are the majority, we are the original rebels, we are all Egyptians." Some wore t-shirts bearing Morsy's photograph.

One participant announced through loudspeakers that the group would stage another demonstration in Tahrir Square next Friday to continue demanding the purging of the judiciary.

Around 2,000 protesters took part in three different marches to the High Court from Al-Fatah Mosque after Friday prayers. Islamist political groups including the Wasat Party and the Hazemoun participated, as well as several protesters injured during the 25 January revolution.

Participants called for purging the judiciary of corrupt figures, amending the Judicial Authority Law so as to lower the legal age of judges' retirement to 60 and applying Article 150 of the Constitution to cases related to the killing of protesters.

"Go [Ahmed] Zend tell Tahani [al-Gebali] that Abdel Meguid [Mahmoud] will not be back," "Shoulder to shoulder in the square against Hosni [Mubarak] and the jailer." The protesters raised banners that read: "No to Mubarak's judges, no to Mubarak's state, and no to the judiciary of the feloul [former figures of Mubarak regime]." They also raised flags that read "Ultras Nahdawy."

Meanwhile, Omar Makram Mosque saw altercations as worshippers were deeply divided by Sheikh Mazhar Shaheen's Friday sermon. Shahien, who has been suspended by the Endowments Ministry for his political speeches in the mosque, rejected what he called the "demolition of the institution of judiciary under the pretext of purging it of corruption."

Supporters and opponents of the Brotherhood’s call to protest began to chant slogans against each other after the sermon.

Some worshipers chanted: "The people want to purge the judiciary," and "Islamic, Islamic in spite of liberalism." 

Opposition worshippers chanted: "The people want to bring down the supreme guide’s rule," and "Judiciary, judiciary, Brothers demolished the judiciary."

"If the judiciary is demolished, that will take Egypt into a dark tunnel; if the judiciary is demolished, rights will be lost and chaos will spread, because we will be living in a jungle where blood runs on the ground, which is not acceptable to Sharia or religion. It is even incompatible with the basic rules of humanity,” Shaheen said during his sermon.

The revolution called for bread, freedom and human dignity, which requires reforming some state institutions, he said, adding that purging corruption in state institutions was also among the demands of the revolution.

"Islam orders us to prevent and fight corruption and to prosecute any corrupt [figures], but purging [institutions] should not be a means to achieving other ends, and the revolution’s demands should not be used to settle accounts," Shaheen said.

The preacher called for achieving justice only through evidence, and not based on suspicions and rumors. He pointed out that a whole institution should not be torn down due to some corrupt individuals, saying such a step would be against Sharia and national security.

The preacher rejected politicizing the judiciary in favor of a certain group or political party, warning that this could lead to chaos and a widespread mistrust of the judiciary.

Shaheen questioned the protesters’ demands to lower the age of retirement for judges to 60, asking if those over 60 were the only corrupt individuals in the system.

Shaheen called for a clear mechanism to hold corrupt judges accountable, saying, "The judge who proves implicated in corruption should be prosecuted ... that will not happen without a clear mechanism for cleansing."

"We could have set up gallows in Tahrir Square to try murderers, but we chose justice, and relying on the judiciary and the law so as not to spread chaos in the country, and have people killed on pretext that they belonged to the [ruling] party or to the regime,” Shaheen said.

Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members began gathering outside the High Court in the morning for the mass demonstration.

The protest was organized in response to a court’s ruling this week to release former President Hosni Mubarak from prison pending his retrial on charges of complicity in killing protesters during the January 2011 uprising. Mubarak was released on the grounds that his period of provisional detention has expired.

They raised banners that read: "Oh Judges for Egypt [a judiciary movement], we are with you until victory [is attained]," "Oh you silent, why are you silent? What is up, have you taken your rights?" "The people want to purge the judiciary," and "Retribution for martyrs."

The protesters set up large speakers on the stairs of the High Court and hung a large banner that read: "Five main demands: The people want to purge the media and judiciary, to change the Judicial Authority Law, to sack the justice minister, to prosecute [Judge Ahmed] al-Zend and [former top prosecutor] Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, and to hold revolutionary tribunals."

The protesters also raised the flags of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, jihad flags and the Muslim Brotherhood flag. The 26 of July Street was blocked as the number of protesters continued to increase.

"Participating in today's protest is assigned to some members of the group, not all of them,” said Brotherhood member Saber Abbas, who also told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the protest objects to the “mixing [of] political and judicial [matters].”

The protest is scheduled to end at 5 pm, Abbas said.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm