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Clashes in Egypt as Islamists defy government's anti-protest law

Islamists have clashed with Egyptian police after defying a new law banning unauthorized protests. The Muslim Brotherhood has vowed to continue demonstrations it has organized every week since the country's July coup.

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Clashes in Cairo

Clashes broke out around the country on Friday as police moved to break up Islamist protests. In Western Cairo, security officials said police fired tear gas, while protesters threw stones and set fire to tires.

The Egyptian government has attempted to crack down on the weekly protests staged by the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs ousted President Mohammed Morsi. The rallies, which use Friday's Muslim prayers as a key time to organize protesters, have frequently resulted in clashes with security forces.

Interim President Adly Mansour enacted a law on Sunday restricting the right to protest. Among other things, it requires the Interior Ministry to be notified three days prior to any protests and also lays out fines and prison terms for violators. The law has received heavy criticism from local rights groups and the international community, with Amnesty International saying it "poses a grave threat to freedom of assembly and gives security forces a free rein to use excessive force."

Crackdown on demonstrations

Since the law was enacted, authorities have moved to forcibly end all protests, not just those organized by the Muslim Brotherhood. Police attempts to disperse a rally organized by non-Islamist students on Thursday killed one person. Shortly thereafter, the Interior Ministry warned against unauthorized protests, saying security forces would deal "firmly" with "illegal" protests organized by the Brotherhood.

In addition to Friday's demonstrations in Cairo, rallies were broken up in the cities of Giza, Alexandria, Suez, Mahalla al-Kobra and Qena. Security in Cairo was boosted in anticipation of the protests. The army deployed forces to several main squares, according to state news agency MENA.

Protesters at one rally in eastern Cairo chanted "down with killers, down with Abdel-Fattah," in reference to Egypt's army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who staged the July 3 coup to unseat Morsi. They also held banners displaying a hand raising four fingers, which has become a symbol to commemorate the government's bloody crackdown on an Islamist sit-in in August that killed hundreds of protesters.

dr/se (AP, AFP)

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