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Egypt Islamists, Secularists Clash at Tahrir Square Protests

Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Mursi clashed with secular activists in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, in a showdown highlighting the tensions that have built up since he took office in June.

Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood organized protests to demand the retrial of those acquitted this week of responsibility for the deaths of demonstrators in last year’s uprising. Secular groups, who also denounced that verdict, had earlier called for a rally today to criticize Mursi’s presidency and the growing influence of Islamism.

Scuffles broke out during today’s demonstrations after secularists chanted slogans against Mursi, with the two sides lobbing stones at each other. Mursi’s supporters carried banners that read “No to a prosecutor who took part in shedding the blood of martyrs.” Shopkeepers rolled down their shutters and fled as tensions mounted in the area, and at least 30 people were injured in the clashes.

Hisham Abu Eisha, manager of Qasr el-Aini hospital’s admissions and emergency unit, told state-run Middle East News Agency that 50 people injured in the clashes had been treated at the hospital so far. Mohamed Shawki, manager of the Mounira hospital, said that facility had treated 41, MENA reported.

The court ruling on Oct. 10 concerned the “Battle of the Camel,” one of the most notorious incidents of the revolt against Hosni Mubarak. Several of those exonerated were senior officials under Mubarak or members of his ruling party.

Clash With Prosecutor

Mursi late yesterday announced he was removing the country’s top public prosecutor, Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, following the acquittals. He was to be named as ambassador to the Vatican, the official Middle East News Agency reported.

Mahmoud refused to depart, saying the president doesn’t have the right to remove him and setting the stage for a clash between the executive and judiciary as a group of judges called an emergency meeting over the order.

Secular parties had called for rallies partly to protest what they say is an effort by the Brotherhood to dominate the process of writing a new constitution. Mursi earlier this year granted himself expanded powers, potentially including the right to nominate members of a committee that will write the charter.

Mohamed el-Beltagi, a senior Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice official, called on supporters to withdraw and head back to their homes to “safeguard the nation,” according to a post on the party’s Facebook page.

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