Egypt's Sisi to resign as minister, pave way for presidential bid-

Photo: Egypt's Sisi to resign as minister, pave way for presidential bid- / Arabic region

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was expected to step down as Egypt's defense minister on Wednesday, paving the way for him to run for president in an election he is expected to win easily, Reuters reported.

The military leadership was presenting Sisi's resignation at a meeting with the interim head of state, the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported on its website.

Army chief Sisi toppled Egypt's first freely-elected president, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, last July after mass protests against his rule.

Quoting a military source, Al-Ahram said Sisi would announce the widely expected decision in a statement to be broadcast later. Sisi, 59, must leave the army to run in the presidential election. No date for the vote has yet been set.

As Sisi prepared to deliver a speech on state media, Egypt was reminded of the instability that has followed Mursi's ouster.

A student was killed when police clashed with protesters at Cairo University, the Interior Ministry said, in a demonstration against a court's decision on Monday to sentence 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death.

The Health Ministry said eight people were also wounded.

Activists from a group called "Students Against the Coup" had called for the protest.

The Interior Ministry said Muslim Brotherhood members had blocked roads and clashed with citizens, fired gunshots and thrown petrol bombs and fireworks in an attempt to set up a protest camp near the university. It said a number of policemen were wounded with birdshot and burns.

A Reuters witness saw protesters, some wearing gas masks, throw burning projectiles at police and police fired rubber bullets and tear gas. Security sources said police had fired tear gas at between 500 to 600 protesters.

CRITICISM

The court ruling on Monday marked an escalation in the state's campaign against the Islamist opposition and drew criticism from international human rights groups. The United States, a major donor of military aid to Egypt, said it was shocked by the sentences.

But there have been no signs that the United States or other Western powers intend to pressure Cairo to end what human rights groups say are widespread abuses against both Islamists and secular activists.

Egypt's public prosecutor on Wednesday ordered 919 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to stand trial in the southern province of Minya on charges including terrorism and murder, the state news agency reported. It said the charges related to violence that broke out last August after the security forces forcibly dispersed protest camps set up by Mursi's supporters.

Minya is where the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, 70, and 682 others went on trial on Tuesday on charges including murder, and where the 529 were sentenced to death.

Sisi is popular among Egyptians who supported the army's decision to remove Mursi. Sisi's followers see him as the kind of strong man needed to end the turmoil dogging Egypt since a popular uprising ended Hosni Mubarak's three decades of one-man rule in 2011.

The former head of military intelligence, Sisi has been lionized by state- and privately-run media hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, but he is reviled by the Islamist opposition which sees him as the mastermind of a coup against an elected leader and the author of a fierce crackdown on dissent.

Egypt has suffered the bloodiest internal strife in its modern history since Mursi was overthrown.

Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 election won by Mursi, is so far the only candidate to have stated his intention to run in the presidential election.

General Sedki Sobhi, who holds the post of chief of staff, is expected to replace Sisi as army chief and defense minister.

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