Egypt's leader imposes curfew
By Betsy Hiel
Published: Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, 11:40 p.m.
CAIRO — Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy declared states of emergency on Sunday in the coastal cities of Port Said, Suez and Ismailia after three days of growing violence.
At least 50 people were reported dead and more than 1,100 injured nationwide.
In a brief address, Morsy said he would deal harshly with those provoking the unrest. Wagging a finger, he said police would enforce a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in all three cities.
The emergency declaration restores the much-hated emergency law of deposed President Hosni Mubarak, which gives police the power to detain citizens without charge for 30 days and allows trials in emergency state-security courts.
Tens of thousands of mourners filled streets in Port Said for a funeral for about 30 people killed in rioting on Saturday. They called for Morsy's downfall, chanting he is “the enemy of Allah.”
Gunfire punctuated the funeral procession, and police fired tear gas at protesters.
The violence in Port Said erupted when a court sentenced 21 people to death for their roles in a soccer riot that killed more than 70 people nearly a year ago.
Seven protesters were killed in the city on Sunday, and more than 400 were wounded.
Troops deployed there and in Ismailia on Saturday, as they did Friday in Suez.
In Cairo, protesters battled security forces on streets around Tahrir Square until they were forced back by tear gas.
Protests against Morsy and the ruling Islamic-based Muslim Brotherhood began on Friday, the second anniversary of an uprising that deposed Mubarak.
“I came here to topple the regime and show support for my brothers here,” said a wheezing Mohammed Mansour, 32, who works in a marble shop in the square.
An older woman, her face veiled against the tear gas, cursed Morsy and the Brotherhood. She said Gamal Abdel Nasser, who ruled Egypt from 1956 to 1970, warned about the Brotherhood's “treachery.”
Theresa Samir Moussa, 28, said she had been willing to give Morsy a chance, but now, all trust is gone. She said the ousted Mubarak's crimes “are the same crimes of Morsy.”
“Look how much money they are spending to fight their own people with tear gas, rubber bullets and even live ammunition, when people don't have enough to eat,” she said.
In Tahrir Square, youths banged drums and chanted “Leave, leave!” as they marched on police lobbing tear gas.
One demonstrator said that men throwing rocks at protesters were “the Brotherhood's militia,” but another thought the rock-throwers were plain-clothed police.
At the heart of the conflict and the rising opposition to Morsy is a controversial constitution ratified in December. Morsy's Islamist allies hurriedly drafted it without input from liberals or minority Christians; opponents say it has an Islamist slant and jeopardizes individual freedoms.
Morsy and Brotherhood officials have said they are defending democracy.
“The political crisis has been institutionalized in the constitution,” said Michael Hanna, senior fellow at the New York-based Century Foundation think tank, who is in Cairo. “This is a political crisis with deep roots, and Morsy and the Brotherhood are not amendable to fixes.”
He said that, as the situation deteriorates, Morsy and the Brotherhood are becoming “more insular … and paranoid,” leading them to close ranks “rather than looking for fixes.”
Egypt's collapsing economy, he said, “will further drive the discontent and aggravate the political division. They don't have a firm platform from which to govern.”
Morsy's office offered condolences for the dead and blamed the violence on “counterrevolutionary forces.”
As the curfew went into effect at midnight, Egyptian TV showed a large protest in Suez, with the crowd defiantly chanting: “Morsy is Mubarak.”
Betsy Hiel is the foreign correspondent for Trib Total Media. Email her at email@example.com.
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