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Originally published July 4, 2013 at 9:08 PM | Page modified July 5, 2013 at 1:52 AM

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Morsi supporters face crackdown after downfall

The ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the swift effort that followed to repress the Muslim Brotherhood deeply angered many of its followers, who called for demonstrations nationwide Friday.

The New York Times

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CAIRO — Remnants of Egypt’s old government reasserted themselves Thursday within hours of the military ouster of the country’s first freely elected president in a crackdown that left scores of his Muslim Brotherhood backers under arrest, their TV stations closed and former officials restored to powerful posts.

The actions provided the first indications of what Egypt’s new political order could look like after Mohammed Morsi, the Islamist president in power for only a year, was deposed by Egypt’s military commanders Wednesday.

The commanders, who installed an interim civilian leader, said they had acted to bring the country back together after millions of Egyptians demonstrated against Morsi, claiming he had arrogated power, polarized society and pushed the country into a steep economic crisis.

But Morsi’s downfall and the swift effort that followed to repress the Muslim Brotherhood deeply angered many of its constituents. They called for demonstrations nationwide Friday, which could provide a telling test of tolerance by the interim government and its claims of wanting to represent all segments of Egypt’s population.

By late Thursday, it was clear the forced change of power, which had the trappings of a military coup wrapped in a popular revolt, had only aggravated the most seething division: that between the Muslim Brotherhood and the security apparatus built up by Hosni Mubarak, the president toppled in Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

The divisions belied a stately ceremony in the country’s highest court, where a little-known judge was sworn in as the acting head of state. The interim president, the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, said he looked forward to parliamentary and presidential elections that would express the “true will of the people.” He praised the military’s intervention so that Egypt could “correct the path of its glorious revolution.”

At the same time, security forces held Morsi incommunicado in an undisclosed location, Islamist broadcast outlets were closed and prosecutors sought the arrest of hundreds of Morsi’s Brotherhood colleagues, in a sign that they had the most to lose in Egypt’s latest political convulsion.

“What kind of national reconciliation starts with arresting people?” said Ebrahem el-Erian after security officials came to his family home before dawn to try to arrest his father, Essam el-Erian, a Brotherhood official. “This is complete exclusion.”

Many of the most significant political shifts pointed to the reassertion of the “deep state,” a term often used for the powerful branches of the Mubarak-era government that remained in place after he had been deposed.

In his swearing-in address, Mansour offered an olive branch to the Islamists, saying they were part of Egyptian society and deserved to participate in the political process. The National Salvation Front, an umbrella opposition group that had pushed for Morsi’s ouster, also called for an inclusive political process.

But in less than 24 hours after the military’s intervention, prosecutors issued arrest warrants for at least 200 Islamists, most of them members of the Muslim Brotherhood. All were wanted on accusations of incitement to kill demonstrators.

Dozens were arrested, including Mohammed Badie, the group’s supreme guide; his deputy, Rashad Bayoumi; and the head of its political wing, Saad el-Katatni. Also on the wanted list was Khairat el-Shater, the group’s powerful financier.

There are widespread fears of Islamist violence in retaliation for Morsi’s ouster, and already some former extremists have vowed to fight.

Suspected militants opened fire at four sites in northern Sinai, targeting two military checkpoints, a police station and el-Arish airport, where military aircraft are stationed, security officials said. The military and security responded to the attacks, and one soldier was killed and three were injured, according to security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Multiple officials of the Brotherhood firmly urged followers to keep their protests peaceful. Thousands of Morsi supporters remained massed in front of a Cairo mosque where they have camped for days, with a line of military armored vehicles across the road keeping watch.

“We declare our complete rejection of the military coup staged against the elected president and the will of the nation,” the Brotherhood said in a statement, read by senior cleric Abdel-Rahman el-Barr to the crowd outside the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo.

The arrest campaign recalled the Muslim Brotherhood’s decades as a banned organization under autocratic rulers.

“This is a police state back in action, and the same faces that were ousted with the Mubarak regime are now appearing on talk shows as analysts,” said a Brotherhood spokesman, Gehad el-Haddad, during an interview with Al-Jazeera’s English satellite channel.

He repeated a conspiracy theory often cited by Islamists: What appeared to be an easing of electricity cuts and petrol shortages in recent days indicated that the shortfalls had been artificially created to feed discontent.

“Did someone push a magic button, or was this all part of a plot?” el-Haddad asked.

Much remains unclear about the new political structure that will emerge, though Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize-winning diplomat, has been chosen to represent the liberal opposition.

In a telephone interview, ElBaradei sought to justify the military’s intervention, calling it a chance to fix the transition to democracy that he said had gone off track after the ouster of Mubarak. “We just lost 2½ years,” he said. “As Yogi Berra said, ‘It is déjà vu all over again,’ but hopefully this time we will get it right.”

He also defended the arrests of Islamists, saying he had been assured they would receive due process and that the shuttered television outlets had incited violence. “I would be the first one to shout loud and clearly if I see any sign of regression in terms of democracy,” he said.

In Syria, meanwhile, President Bashar Assad said the events in Egypt signified the fall of “political Islam” and a vindication of his government’s fight against the two-year Syrian uprising.

Assad, in an interview with the pro-government Al Thawra newspaper, said the fall of Morsi proved that Islamist groups were unfit to rule, and drew pointed comparisons to the movement against him in Syria, in which Islamists play a prominent role.

“Whoever brings religion to use for political or factional interests will fall anywhere in the world,” Assad said, a declaration that might not sit well with Syria’s crucial allies: the theocratic government in Iran and the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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