Tens of thousands of Egyptians have marched through Cairo to call for the reinstatement of deposed president Mohamed Morsi but there was no repeat of the pitched battles that erupted in the streets last week.
Large groups of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were still out around the capital in the early hours of Saturday.
Crowds in the Nasr City area chanted anti-military slogans calling Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, the country’s army chief, a traitor. Near the defence ministry, hundreds stood behind barbed wire shouting at soldiers just a few metres away.
A large crowd of Morsi supporters made its way along Ramses Street, close to Tahrir Square, and hundreds were on 6 October Bridge, where some of the worst clashes with anti-Morsi demonstrators took place a week ago.
“I am here to say ‘no’ to the military coup and ‘yes’ to Morsi, who I see as my legitimate president, although I am not
in the Brotherhood and nor did I vote for him,” Ahmed Adel, a 22-year-old student, told Reuters news agency.
The army denies Morsi’s overthrow was a coup, saying it ousted him to enforce the will of the people after millions took to the streets at the end of June to demand his resignation.
A smaller crowd, though still in its thousands, gathered in Tahrir Square, the crucible of anti-Morsi protests, for a traditional fast-breaking meal at sunset.
A week earlier, similar protests turned violent when pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators clashed in cities and towns across the country, killing 35 people and deepening divides between Egyptians on different sides of the political divide.
Three days later, soldiers opened fire on a group of pro-Morsi demonstrators outside the Republican Guard compound in Cairo, where some of his supporters believe he is being held, killing 53. Four soldiers also died.
Calls for Morsi’s release
The United States on Saturday called on Egypt’s military to free Morsi. State Department spokeswoman Je Psaki said the US agreed with Germany’s earlier appeal for Morsi to be released and was “publicly” making the same request.
Morsi is currently being held in a “safe place, for his safety,” foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told reporters on Wednesday, adding that the former Egyptian leader had not been charged with anything to date.
We hope – we dream – that we won’t see anyone from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian politics.
Police have also been hunting Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Badie, and 10 other senior figures, after warrants were issued for their arrest on accusations of inciting violence.
In Tahrir Square there was little sympathy for Morsi, highlighting the schism in Egyptian society and the challenges the military and interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi face in restoring law and order.
“We’re happy with al-Sisi’s decision to isolate Morsi and his group,” a man in the square told Al Jazeera.
“We hope – we dream – that we won’t see anyone from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian politics. They’re a religious group. Religion and politics shouldn’t mix.”
Beblawi has said he will swear in a new cabinet by the end of next week and that he is willing to offer positions to Brotherhood members. But the Brotherhood has rejected the offer and pledged to continue agitation.