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Police Fire Tear Gas on Anti-Morsi Protesters: 'This is the Last Warning Before We Lay Siege'

Crowds protest 'illegitimate' constitution outside presidential palace

Common Dreams staff

Tensions are growing in Cairo Tuesday as riot police fire tear gas at thousands of protesters after anti-government demonstrators broke through police lines to access the Egyptian Presidential Palace.

The Washington Post reports crowds chanted, "Freedom or we die. Mohammed Morsi! Illegitimate! Brotherhood. Illegitimate," in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood from which Morsi hails.

"This is the last warning before we lay siege on the presidential palace," said Mahmoud Hashim, a 21-year-old student from the city of Suez on the Red Sea. "We want the presidential decrees cancelled."

Growing rage against President Mohamed Morsi's Nov. 22 decree granting himself sweeping new powers, as well a scheduled Dec. 15 vote on a draft constitution approved by the Islamist-majority Constitutent Assembly, culminated on Tuesday, according to the Russian Times, with Al Arabiya reporting that 10 people have already been injured in the clashes.

Since the Nov. 22 decree — which places Morsi above any judicial oversight — hundreds of thousands have protested in Cairo's Tahrir Square, demanding that Morsi's decrees be rescinded. Islamist supporters have rallied in equal numbers.

The draft constitution was then approved by the Constitutent Assembly only after liberals, Christians and others walked out in protest.

Amnesty International found the draft constitution "falls well short" of protecting human rights, women's rights, freedom of expression and religious freedom, among other charges.

On Sunday, Egypt's's Supreme Constitutional Court suspended work indefinitely after a large group of Morsi supporters denied judges access to the courtroom. But on Monday, the BBC and Russian Times reported that Egypt's top judicial body would oversee a Dec. 15 referendum on a draft constitution and decree issued by Morsi.

Whether some of the country's judges will break a boycott of the referendum — which they are scheduled to oversee — remains to be seen.

Also on Tuesday, at leat 8 daily newspapers, both opposition and independent, suspended publication for the day to protest restrictions on freedom of the press in the draft constitution.

Agence France-Press reports:

The move was in order to "stand up to tyranny," independent daily Al-Tahrir said on its website.

'The Egyptian Independent objects to continued restrictions on media liberties, especially after hundreds of Egyptians gave their lives for freedom,' read a message on that newspaper's website, its only viewable content on Tuesday morning.

"The result of this upheaval is hard to predict, but it will almost certainly permanently harden the mostly fluid divisions that are at the centre of Egypt's political life, and make a transition to a stable democratic system much more difficult," writes Issandr El Emrani in The National.

El Emrani continues:

The sorry spectacle of an all-Muslim, almost all-male, middle-aged Assembly rushing to approve articles and make last-minute changes in a 17-hour marathon session does not bode well for how the Islamists think the country should be ruled. Nor does the fact that the president and the Brotherhood have unleashed vitriolic attacks against the judiciary, including sending protesters to intimidate judges — as they did on Sunday when the Supreme Constitutional Court was set to rule on the legality of the Assembly. That forced the Court to postpone its potentially explosive verdict that might have tested the power of Mr. Morsi's November 22 decree.


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