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Mursi Decree Fuels Egyptian Protests, Raises U.S. Concern

Egyptian Protesters Rally in Cairo After Mursi Expands Powers
A protester holds up a poster with the faces of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and current President Mohmmed Morsi, in Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photographer: Mostafa El Shemy/AP

Egyptian hospitals treated injuries sustained during rallies against President Mohamed Mursi’s decree extending his powers, which sparked one of the biggest nationwide protests since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

A hospital in Cairo received 32 people injured, including five with gunshot wounds, during clashes around Tahrir Square, where tens of thousands gathered yesterday, the official Middle East News Agency reported today, citing Mahmoud Saeed, emergency room manager at El Monera General Hospital. Critical cases were moved to El Hussein University Hospital, the Cairo-based news service said.

At least 56 Egyptians were injured yesterday in protests around the country, including eight policemen targeted by Molotov cocktails, MENA said. The Associated Press said Muslim Brotherhood supporters were injured in Alexandria when protesters hurled rocks at them, while the Brotherhood’s offices in cities including Suez and Port Said were burned and there were scuffles between rival Islamist and leftist demonstrators in the southern city of Assiut.

Mursi on Nov. 22 issued a decree that prevents his decisions from being challenged by the judiciary. He also fired the country’s top prosecutor and ordered a retrial for Mubarak-era officials accused of causing the deaths of protesters last year. The step came a day after he earned international plaudits by brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Speaking to supporters in Cairo yesterday, Mursi said his actions were necessary to prevent elements of the old regime from derailing Egypt’s revolution. Protesters accused him of seeking to replicate Mubarak’s dictatorial powers.

‘Overly Concentrated’

Mursi’s decisions “raise concerns for many Egyptians and for the international community,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday. “One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution.”

Financial aid from the U.S., and U.S. support for Egypt’s efforts to get loans from the International Monetary Fund and other organizations, is contingent on democratic development. Egypt reached preliminary agreement with the IMF on Nov. 20 for a $4.8 billion loan.

“His hope is that the West needs him more than he needs the West,” Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington policy group, said yesterday.

Financial support is crucial as Mursi is struggling to revive an economy battered by last year’s uprising, which caused tourists and investors to flee. Egypt’s benchmark stock index fell 3.9 percent this week, the biggest decline since June.

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