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Protesters, police clash ahead of Egyptian constitution vote

By Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
updated 12:36 PM EST, Fri January 10, 2014
Police detain a man during clashes with supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo on Friday January 10.
Police detain a man during clashes with supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo on Friday January 10.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Islamist group supporters protest an upcoming vote on a new constitution
  • The constitution would ban religious parties and give the military more power
  • Clashes were reported Friday in at least three cities

(CNN) -- Protesters in parts of Egypt rallied Friday against the government and a vote on a constitution that would ban religious parties, leading to clashes with security forces or demonstrators' opponents in at least three cities, Egyptian media reported.

The demonstrations are the latest by members or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that has regularly protested Egypt's interim government since Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsy was ousted in a coup in July.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters clashed with opponents in parts of Cairo after Morsy loyalists tore down posters supporting the proposed constitution, on which Egyptians will vote Tuesday and Wednesday, the semiofficial Ahram Online news outlet reported.

In Giza, security forces fired tear gas at Morsy supporters to disperse their march there, Ahram Online reported. The demonstrators began to march after Friday prayers and clashed with police in various parts of the city, Ahram Online said.

Clashes also broke out in al-Sabah city in Suez province, where security forces fired tear gas at a pro-Morsy march, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency.

The Muslim Brotherhood-led National Alliance to Support Legitimacy had called for protests, MENA said. The alliance has focused its ire on Egypt's January 14-15 referendum on a new constitution, which would not only ban religious parties but also put more power in the hands of the military.

The alliance has called for a boycott of the referendum.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters have continued their protests, even though the government declared the group a terrorist organization last month. The government has threatened to arrest anyone who attends Muslim Brotherhood protests or provides financial support to the organization.

Supporters of the organization demand the reinstatement of Morsy, who became the country's first democratically elected president in 2012, and the full restoration of their political and social rights. The interim government blames the group for coordinated attacks on churches and government facilities, including a recent bombing of a police headquarters that left 16 dead and more than 100 injured.

The military ousted Morsy on July 3 after he was accused of pursuing an Islamist agenda and excluding other factions from the government.

Morsy's supporters say that the deposed president wasn't given a fair chance and that the military has returned to the authoritarian practices of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed in a popular uprising in 2011.

Morsy is awaiting trial in several cases, including one in which he and 14 other Muslim Brotherhood members face charges stemming from December 2012 protests over a constitution he shepherded into effect.

Egyptian authorities have accused Morsy and his staff of ordering supporters to attack protesters after guards and members of the Interior Ministry refused to do it.

Morsy and four others are charged with inciting violence, but they are not accused of using force. Eleven others are charged with killing three men, torturing 54 people, using force and possessing weapons.

That trial, delayed Wednesday, is expected to resume on February 1.

Morsy, who says he still is Egypt's legitimate president, has refused to recognize the court's authority and has yet to accept legal representation for the proceeding.

CNN's Jason Hanna, Sarah Sirgany, Saad Abedine and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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