Clashes erupt in Cairo

Lawyers, protesters firm on withdrawal of decree

Opponents of President Mohamed Morsi clashed with Egyptian police on Tuesday as thousands of protesters stepped up pressure on the Islamist to scrap a decree they say threatens the nation with a new era of autocracy.

Police fired tear gas at stone-throwing youths in streets off Cairo’s Tahrir Square, centre of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year.

A 52-year-old protester died after inhaling the gas, the second fatality since Morsi announced the decree expanding his powers and preventing court challenges to his decisions last week.

Tuesday’s protest called by leftists, liberals and other groups marked a deepening of the worst crisis since the Muslim Brotherhood politician was elected in June, and exposed a divide between the newly-empowered Islamists and their opponents. Some protesters have camped out since Friday in the square, and violence has flared around the country, including in a town north of Cairo where a Muslim Brotherhood youth was killed in clashes on Sunday. Hundreds more have been injured.

Morsi’s move has also provoked a rebellion by judges and battered confidence in an economy struggling to recover from two years of turmoil. Hundreds of lawyers gathered outside their union building in downtown Cairo chanting: “Leave, leave.”

Opponents have accused Morsi of behaving like a modern-day pharaoh. His administration has defended the decree as an effort to speed up reforms and complete a democratic transformation.

Opponents say it shows he has dictatorial instincts. “The people want to bring down the regime,” protesters chanted, echoing slogans used in the anti-Mubarak uprising. “We don’t want a dictatorship again. The Mubarak regime was a dictatorship. We had a revolution to have justice and freedom,” said 32-year-old Ahmed Husseini.

The protest was a show of strength by the non-Islamist opposition, whose fractious ranks have been pushed together by the crisis.

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