Cairo: Angry youths hurled rocks at security forces and burned a police truck as thousands gathered in central Cairo to protest at Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s decision to grab sweeping new powers.
Police fired tear gas near Tahrir Square, heart of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak at the height of the Arab Spring. Thousands demanded that Mursi should quit and accused him of launching a “coup”.
There were also violent protests in Alexandria, Port Said and Suez.
Mursi on Thursday issued a decree that puts his decisions beyond any legal challenge until a new parliament is elected. Opponents immediately accused him of turning into a new Mubarak and hijacking the Egyptian revolution.
“This is the point of no return for Mursi. He has dug himself deeper in a hole and won’t know how to get out of it,” said Ahmed Saleh, an activist who said many would stay in Tahrir square until Mursi withdrew the decree.
“The people want to bring down the regime,” shouted protesters in Tahrir, echoing a chant used in the uprising that forced Mubarak to step down.
The United States, the European Union and the United Nations expressed concern at Mursi’s move.
Mursi’s rivals condemned him as an autocratic pharaoh who wanted to impose his Islamist vision on Egypt.
The president’s aides said the decree was intended to speed up a protracted transition to democracy that has been hindered by legal obstacles
“I am for all Egyptians,” Mursi said on a stage outside the presidential palace, adding that he was working for social and economic stability and remained committed to the revolution.
Egyptian judges will meet on Saturday to respond to Mursi’s move, which put him above the judicial oversight. The judges could threaten to go on strike, which would bring the judiciary to a halt.
Some non-Islamist political parties called for a million-strong march on Tuesday to demand that Mursi rescinds his decree.
But Islamist parties, including the Building and Development Party, accused Mursi’s opponents of undermining the democratic process that brought him to office.
“Those calling for the downfall of President Mohamed Mursi have rejected democracy because President Mursi has been democratically elected by popular will,” the party said in a statement. Mursi’s decree would “save the revolution from the remnants of Mubarak’s regime”, it said. REUTERS