Anti-Morsi protesters clash with police in Cairo

Photo: Anti-Morsi protesters clash with police in Cairo / Arab World

Egyptian protesters briefly clashed with police outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Tuesday during a rally to denounce Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's broad new powers and a draft constitution which opposition groups say is undemocratic, dpa reported.

Police fired tear gas at a group of protesters who climbed over a fence outside the palace. The Health Ministry said 18 people suffered minor injuries, mainly from tear gas inhalation. Before this incident, the march had been largely peaceful.

Other opposition supporters were maintaining a sit-in in Tahrir Square for the 12th day running in protest at the recent constitutional declaration in which Morsi made his decrees immune to judicial review, as well as the draft constitution which he Saturday ordered to be put to a referendum on December 15.

"We place the entire responsibility for protecting the demonstrators on President Morsi and the Ministry of the Interior," Egyptian Social Democratic Party spokeswoman Amany el-Khayat said.

However, a statement from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party said that opposition leaders - including Mohammed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabahy - would be responsible for any violence.

"Just as we took responsibility for our demonstrations and successfully organized them, they must take responsibility for the demonstrations that they call and bear the responsibility for any violence due to bad organization," said FJP spokesman Murad Ali.

A rival sit-in was continuing outside the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo's southern Maadi district, where the arrival of hundreds of Islamist demonstrators on Sunday morning led to the postponement of a planned hearing on the legitimacy of the assembly that framed the draft constitution.

Al-Ahram newspaper, quoting an unnamed judicial source, said that court president Maher al-Buheiri and other judges entered the building under a security escort on Tuesday but had not yet decided whether to resume hearings or not.

Protestors outside the court denied that they were seeking to intimidate the judges, whose decision dissolving the lower house of parliament in June angered Islamists.

"Our first demand is that the judges of the constitutional court do not interfere in politics," Mohammed Hamid, a 50-year-old accountant, told dpa.

"We are not preventing the judges from entering the court, contrary to what several newspapers and satellite channels reported. Our sit-in is peaceful and will continue until our demands are met," Hamid added.

A number of secular-leaning members who withdrew from the constitutional assembly in previous weeks meanwhile warned that the proposed constitution could end up seeing religious scholars being placed in charge of the country instead of elected leaders.

Clauses in the draft could bring about "the rule of the jurisconsult" - the ruling ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran - which gives Islamic religious scholars the final say, the dissenters told a Cairo press conference on Tuesday.

According to the former members of the constituent assembly, quoted online by the state-run Al-Ahram, the clauses expanding the constitution's definition of the "principles of Islamic sharia" and requiring the country's al-Azhar Islamic school to be consulted on relevant matters "put the legislative power ... under the tutelage of the religious institution."

In another move against the draft constitution, 11 newspapers refused to publish Tuesday in protest at what they say are its restrictions on the freedom of the press.

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