Egyptian Protests Turn Violent After President Grants Himself Sweeping Powers

Posted November 23rd, 2012 at 5:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Protesters in several Egyptian cities have attacked the offices of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, as rival pro- and anti-government groups demonstrate in Cairo about a new presidential decree.

The violence comes a day after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi put himself above oversight and declared that his decisions cannot be appealed by the courts or any other authority. In a speech to supporters Friday at the presidential palace, Mr. Morsi said he wants to move Egypt forward as a stable and safe nation and does not want sole control of the country.

Thousands of opposition supporters, including liberal politician Mohamad ElBaradei, former head of the U.N. atomic energy agency, gathered in Tahrir Square on Friday to protest the president's decision, while police fired tear gas at the crowds. ElBaradei has accused the president of making himself a “new pharaoh” by taking on so much power.

In the cities of Port Said, Ismailia, and Alexandria, crowds of protesters lobbed stones and explosives and set fire to Muslim Brotherhood offices. In Alexandria, people were seen tossing papers and other objects out office windows, while a party banner hanging on the wall of a building had been ripped nearly in half. The protesters chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime.” At least a dozen people were injured.

Earlier reports said the Muslim Brotherhood offices in Suez were also burned, but state television later retracted that report.

Mr. Morsi's decree also bars Egypt's judiciary from dissolving the upper house of parliament and an assembly drafting a new constitution — two bodies dominated by Mr. Morsi's Islamist allies.

In addition, Mr. Morsi has ordered retrials of former officials who used violence in efforts to suppress last year's popular revolution against longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

The president's action comes after he received international praise for mediating a Gaze cease-fire.

The U.S. government has expressed concern about Mr. Morsi's decrees. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland remarked Friday that one of the aspirations of Egypt's revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution.

She said the current constitutional vacuum in Egypt can only be resolved by the adoption of a constitution that includes checks and balances, and respects fundamental freedoms, individual rights, and the rule of law consistent with Egypt's international commitments.

The spokeswoman also called for calm and encouraged all parties to work together to resolve their differences on these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue.