Mursi supporters defiant amid appeals for peace
Muslim Brotherhood furious at Kerry's comment that Egyptian military was 'restoring democracy'
Islamist backers of Egypt's deposed president Mohammed Mursi staged defiant rallies yesterday, as police prepared to disperse their Cairo protest camps amid international appeals to avoid further bloodshed.
Authorities plan to besiege sit-in protest camps filled with supporters of Mursi, state television reported, while Mursi loyalists say they'll defend the areas until their leader is returned to power.
A security cordon around the two Cairo sit-in sites raises the possibility of more violence in Egypt, still in turmoil a month after a military coup backed by popular support overthrew Mursi. Protesters armed with sticks and makeshift body armour already stand guard there behind walls of sandbags, tyres and bricks.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Egypt's military had been "restoring democracy" when it deposed Mursi, comments that prompted fury from the ousted leader's supporters.
Demonstrators began their marches after Friday prayers, pouring out of several Cairo mosques and heading towards their key Rabaa al-Adawiya site.
"Down with Sisi, Mursi is our president," thousands of protesters in one march chanted, waving Egyptian flags and posters of the deposed leader. "Sisi" refers to General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is defence minister and chief of the armed forces.
The demonstrations were a direct rebuke to authorities who have urged protesters to "let reason prevail" and return home.
Kerry, in an interview with Pakistan's Geo television, appeared to defend Mursi's ousting.
"The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descendance into chaos, into violence," he said.
"And the military did not take over, to the best of our judgment - so far. To run the country, there's a civilian government. In effect, they were restoring democracy," he said.
A spokesman for Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood later denounced Kerry's comments, accusing Washington of being complicit in the coup.
"Is it the job of the army to restore democracy?" asked Gehad al-Haddad. "Does Secretary Kerry accept Defence Secretary [Chuck] Hagel to step in and remove Obama if large protests take place in America?"
Authorities accused protesters of hoarding weapons and torturing people, and say their rallies have become a nuisance to locals. European diplomats, meanwhile, continued to push for a peaceful resolution to the impasse that began after Mursi's July 3 ousting following massive protests against his rule.
More than 250 people have been killed since then.
Additional reporting by The New York Times, Reuters