Thousands of supporters and opponents of Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi have clashed near Cairo’s Tahrir Square amid a rally calling on the president to “cleanse the judiciary.”
Four people were hurt in the violence that broke out on Friday following a call by the Muslim Brotherhood to demonstrate outside the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly challenged Morsi since he took office last June.
“The people want the purging of the judiciary” and “Our judiciary, where is justice and neutrality,” protesters chanted.
The two sides pelted each other with stones and Molotov cocktails and gunfire was heard, an AFP journalist said.
An hour after the clashes broke out, three armoured police vehicles arrived and began firing tear gas as well as birdshot, reports said.
An Al Jazeera correspondent described the demonstration as initially restrained and said it was still unclear how the trouble began.
Undermining the revolution
One protester, Sami Haydar, told Reuters that the judiciary was seeking to undermine any attempts of democratic reform in Egypt.
“The judiciary authority is the one branch which is still exactly the same as it was before and after the evolution. Meaning the spearhead of those fighting against the revolution are the judges. This is proven by the fact that everyone tried for killing protesters from the start of the revolution until now has been found innocent,” Haydar said.
Similar rallies also took place in Egypt’s second largest city of Alexandria as hundreds begin to gather in Sidi Gaber Square.
Last month, a court overturned a controversial decree by Morsi to sack state prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud, appointed by ousted president Hosni Mubarak, and replace him with Talaat Abdallah.
The court believed Morsi had overstepped his powers when he sacked Mahmud, blamed for bungling the trials of former regime officials, including Mubarak himself, after the 2011 uprising.
Many judges are Mubarak-era appointees, and Morsi supporters claim they remain hostile to them despite subsequent election victories.
A court also overturned Morsi’s calling of parliamentary polls for this month, ruling that he had ratified a new electoral law without consulting the constitutional court.