Thousands have rallied in Cairo to show support for Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi, who has been locked in a deep dispute with the largely secular opposition.
Protesters packed a square outside Cairo University on Friday, chanting slogans backing Morsi and denouncing the recent violence allegedly carried out by opposition supporters against state institutions.
“The president who came to power through the ballot box cannot be brought down by petrol bombs and attacks on public and private buildings,” Mohammed al-Sagheer, an Muslim cleric, told the rally.
Participants raised banners that read: “No to subversion”; “Those who love Egypt should not ruin it.”
The rally was the first by Morsi’s allies since massive protests erupted against his policies in late January, marking the second anniversary of an uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.
The opposition accuses Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, of tightening his Muslim Brotherhood group’s hold on power and behaving like a dictator.
The Muslim Brotherhood said its participation in Friday’s rally was “symbolic” to avoid possible clashes with Morsi’s opponents.
Some 60 people have been killed in clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces across Egypt in the past three weeks, according to official figures.
Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators gathered on Friday outside the presidential palace in Cairo to protest what they call Morsi’s failure to fulfill the objectives of the revolution that brought him to power.
The main opposition National Salvation Front announced it was staying away from Friday’s protest after it was accused of inciting street violence.
The bloc, led by Nobel peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, has rejected a recent call by Morsi for dialogue, saying it lacks seriousness and a clear agenda.