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Islamist Rallies Fizzle in Egypt Amid Security Presence

Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Protests against the army’s ouster of Mohamed Mursi fizzled across Egypt yesterday, allowing the military to ease its curfew amid a crackdown that has curbed Islamists’ ability to bring backers into the streets.

Demonstrators moved through the Ramsis, Helwan and Haram districts of Cairo and neighboring Giza, chanting “Mursi is my president” and calling Defense Minister Abdelfatah al-Seesi a traitor. Mursi supporters also marched in the governorates of Aswan, Suez, Minya and Fayoum, state-run Ahram Online said.

Some protesters waved Egyptian flags while others carried yellow cards showing a four-finger salute, a reference to the Aug. 14 raid by security forces on two pro-Mursi protest camps that left about 1,000 people dead. Nationwide, at least one person died and 54 were hurt in clashes during marches yesterday, the government said.

A day earlier, former President Hosni Mubarak was released from prison and sent to a military hospital under house arrest, a stunning development for many who took part in the 2011 uprising that toppled him. Some critics said Egypt’s current leadership, installed by the military, is out to reprise the police state Mubarak once led.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with his Egyptian counterpart al-Seesi by telephone from Kuala Lumpur today and stressed the importance of a peaceful, inclusive, transparent political process that includes all Egyptians, according to George Little, a Pentagon spokesman.

Tightened Security

Egypt’s cabinet, in an e-mailed statement today, said it was easing the hours of the curfew imposed Aug. 14 in response to citizens’ demands. The curfew will now run from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., except for Fridays, which will remain at 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The Anti-Coup Alliance, which includes Islamist groups such as the Brotherhood, had called on its supporters to join the “Friday of Martyrs” marches after prayers. The army and police forces tightened security at sites in Cairo that had been used by protesters and closed off Tahrir Square in the city center with tanks and barbed wire.

Violence broke out in several Nile Delta cities during the marches, Ahram Online reported. One person was killed and 23 wounded in clashes between Brotherhood supporters and residents in Tanta city, the Interior Ministry said on its Facebook page.

The 2 1/2 years since Mubarak’s ouster have been marked by division, deepening poverty and violence instead of the better life protesters sought when they ended his three-decade rule.

Mubarak, 85, was moved to the hospital a day after a court ordered his release in relation to a case involving gifts from a state-run organization. Other cases involving Mubarak, including a retrial for his alleged role in the death of protesters in 2011, will continue. He’s also standing trial on corruption-related charges.

Mubarak’s ‘Remnants’

The Brotherhood, whose leadership has been detained since Mursi’s July 3 ouster, says “remnants” of the old regime, which barely tolerated the group, played a key role in deposing Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected civilian president.

Among the Brotherhood leaders rounded up this week are Ahmed Aref, the group’s spokesman, and Mohamed Badie, its spiritual leader.

The struggle is raising the cost of financing Egypt’s budget deficit and leaving little room for the government to spur growth.

Yields on local-currency debt are rising from two-year lows reached after Mursi’s ouster. Egypt sold one-year notes at an average 12.86 percent this week, more than twice what Lebanon pays for its local debt. The budget gap may widen to 12 percent by year-end from 11 percent in 2012, according to the average of 11 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporters on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at calexander1@bloomberg.net; Abdel Latif Wahba in Cairo at alatifwahba@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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