Even as authorities seemed to be trying to tamp down the violence, though, an alliance representing Morsi’s supporters said Sunday that 52 detainees rounded up during the recent demonstrations were killed by police while they were being transferred to a prison in Qalyubia, north of Cairo. The government put the number of deaths in the incident at 36.
And in a sign of the simmering tensions between the government and the country’s largest Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, thousands of demonstrators calling for Morsi’s reinstatement took to the streets Sunday for the third day in a row.
Security forces, however, closed roads and deployed tanks to choke off protests in Cairo, blunting the usually impressive ability of the Brotherhood to turn out its supporters. “The army is everywhere. Just walking on the streets earlier today you could see their increased presence,” said Abdelrahman Mohammed, a volunteer with the anti-coup media campaign, explaining why the group called off one major demonstration.
Egypt’s defense minister and de facto leader, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, in a televised speech Sunday to an audience of uniformed military and security officials, vowed to deal forcefully with perpetrators of violence.
Sissi, who led the coup that toppled Morsi, also said that supporters of the ousted regime would be welcome to participate in politics in the future, but it was unclear whether that offer extended to members of the Brotherhood, which is allied with Morsi. The interim government installed by Sissi has hinted that it is considering instituting a ban on the Brotherhood.
“We will not be silent in the face of the destruction of the country and the people, of the burning of the homeland and terrorizing innocent people,” Sissi said, adding that Morsi supporters are welcome “to participate in rebuilding of the democratic path and to engage in the political process, according to the map of the future rather than confrontation and destruction of the Egyptian state.”
But an alliance of Morsi supporters said in a statement Sunday that Sissi’s conciliatory comments on political inclusion were belied by the slaying of 52 detainees, which “confirms the systematic violence practiced against opponents of the coup.”
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said 36 prisoners died in the incident, in which it said 612 members of the Brotherhood had tried to escape, in the process taking a police officer hostage. The prisoners died of suffocation when tear gas was fired or during a stampede by some trying to get away, the ministry reported. Security forces rescued the police officer, the ministry said.