Egyptian students protest after Brotherhood leader arrested

Reuters

* Brotherhood leader arrested in crackdown

* Mursi to go on trial

* Crackdown weakens Brotherhood

By Hadeel Al Shalchi

CAIRO, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Egyptian police fired teargas atprotesting students at Cairo's al-Azhar university on Wednesdayhours after authorities announced the detention of MuslimBrotherhood leader Essam El-Erian, part of a crackdown againstthe Islamist movement.

Erian, deputy leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom andJustice party, was taken into custody from a residence in NewCairo, a suburb on the outskirts of the capital, where he hadbeen in hiding, an interior ministry source told Reuters.

At the al-Azhar university's main campus, students smashedwindows, hurled chairs and covered walls of an administrativebuilding with graffiti.

"Sisi is a dog. Down, down with the lord of the army," oneprotester scribbled, referring to army chief General AbdelFattah al-Sisi, who led the overthrow of Islamist PresidentMohamed Mursi in July.

One police officer yelled: "Arrest anyone you see. Bring methose kids. If you see anyone just arrest them right away." Over20 students were arrested, according to two security sources.

Students at Egypt's top institution for Islamic teachingshave demonstrated for weeks in support of Mursi, who was toppledby the army after mass protests against his rule.

The deputy prime minister said in a statement that thegovernment was committed to reconciliation. He accused theBrotherhood of undermining efforts to resolve political turmoil.

"Those who are until now rejecting or stalling anyunderstandings aimed at achieving reconciliation and stabilityfor the Egyptian people are the leaders of the MuslimBrotherhood," Ziad Bahaa El-Din said.

Brotherhood officials, of whom many are either jailed or onthe run, were not immediately available for comment. >

Many Brotherhood leaders have been detained since theoverthrow of Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected president. He,Erian and 13 other Brotherhood leaders are expected to go ontrial on Monday on charges of inciting violence.

The charges relate to the deaths of about a dozen people inclashes outside the presidential palace last December afterMursi enraged protesters with a decree expanding his powers.

The trial of three senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders oncharges of inciting violence was halted on Tuesday after thejudge withdrew from the case.

Although he did not spell out his reasons, in similarsituations in the past judges have complained there was a lackof evidence, procedures were illegal or that the cases werepolitically motivated.

The trials are likely to create more upheaval in Egypt, themost populous Arab nation, which controls the Suez Canal, avital global trade route.

TURMOIL

The Brotherhood, which demands Mursi's reinstatement,accuses the army of staging a coup that sabotaged democraticgains made since a popular uprising toppled autocrat HosniMubarak in 2011.

At least 1,000 people, including members of the securityforces, were killed in the violence that followed Mursi'soverthrow. Hundreds of his supporters died when police forcesstormed two protest camps on Aug. 14.

An Egyptian court in September banned the Muslim Brotherhood and seized their funds to try to crush the movement, which thegovernment accuses of inciting violence and terrorism.

The Brotherhood's discipline and hierarchy helped it winelections after the revolt that toppled Mubarak, eventuallypropelling Mursi into power.

Now the army-led government and its supporters regard theBrotherhood as a terrorist group and enemy of the state.

The Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful protest. Although it has said it will carry on with protests until thearmy-backed government falls, the demonstrations are smaller andshorter than ones staged when Mursi was first deposed.

Islamists appear to have adopted a policy of choosingsensitive sites like Al-Azhar to air their views instead oftaking to the streets in big numbers.

Critics of the government - which has announced a road mapleading to new elections - say it is becoming moreauthoritarian, stifling dissent and limiting freedom of speech.

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