CAIRO – Supporters of toppled President Mohammed Morsi increased the pressure on Egypt’s interim leadership by defiantly flooding into two protest camps Monday, prompting police to postpone moving against the 6-week-old sit-ins because they feared a “massacre.”
Morsi’s Islamist backers have rejected negotiations with the military-backed government, leaving the most populous Arab nation in an uneasy limbo.
Still, the delay by the security forces gave the Sunni Muslim world’s top religious institution more time to try to ease the political tensions with a new initiative.
Authorities also showed no signs of meeting key demands by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to release top Islamists who have been detained and face criminal investigations.
A judge ordered the deposed president, detained since he was overthrown July 3, to be held for 15 more days pending investigations of charges he conspired in 2011 with Palestinian militants, a judicial official said.
As news leaked that police were going to cordon off access to the sit-in sites early Monday, protesters took to the streets by the tens of thousands, and many made their way into the protest camps, whose populations include many women and children. Authorities said they wanted to “avoid bloodshed” and delayed taking any action.
The Anti-Coup Alliance, which works with the Brotherhood, said in a statement that the swift response of the people to come to the main sit-in site at the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque “is a great message to all parties that deserves our utmost respect.”
The group also urged police not to respond to orders to blockade the sit-ins.
“Their rifles and bullets must only target enemies of Egypt,” the group said.
For weeks, the government has been warning protesters to disperse, describing the sit-ins as a security threat.
The Interior Ministry has depicted the encampments as a public danger, saying 11 bodies bearing signs of torture were found near both sites. Amnesty International has also reported that anti-Morsi protesters have been captured, beaten, subjected to electric shocks or stabbed. At least eight bodies have arrived at a morgue in Cairo bearing signs of torture, the human rights group said.
After night fell Monday, speakers at the Rabaah sit-in led the flag-waving crowd in chants of “The police are thugs!” and “Islamic law, not secular law!” Some in the throng hoisted children up on their shoulders as they cheered, waved and made V-for-victory signs.