Cairo, Sept 27 (AFP/APP):Scattered protests broke out Friday in Egypt against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi but they were quickly dispersed as his supporters took to the streets to stage counter rallies, witnesses said.
Police blocked streets leading to Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime-autocrat Hosni Mubarak, after calls were made by exiled businessman Mohamed Aly for a “million-man march”.
Aly posted viral videos accusing Sisi and the military of corruption that sparked rare protests against the president last weekend.
Despite a heavy security presence in the capital, hundreds took to the streets in Cairo’s Warraq island district, a witness told AFP.
“About 3,000 people demonstrated after Friday prayers,” he said, on condition of anonymity, adding that police used tear gas to break up the rally.
A video posted on social media showed a chaotic scene as people ran to avoid the gas.
In southern Egypt, small-scale protests were staged in Qus and Qena city, other witnesses said.
“A hundred people went out in Qus and tore down banners bearing photos of Sisi,” one said, before security forces “took control of the situation”.
Elected president in 2014, a year after pushing predecessor Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood from power, Sisi is seen by many as one of the most authoritarian figures in the Middle East.
Videos posted on social media allegedly showed scenes from other protests in the southern governorates of Luxor and Aswan, but AFP could not immediately confirm their authenticity.
In Cairo, near the tomb of former president Anwar Sadat, about 1,000 people turned out on Friday afternoon to show their support for Sisi, according to an AFP journalist.
Sisi himself, returning to Cairo after attending a UN summit in New York, played down the call for mass protests and said there was “no reason for concern”.
UN rights chief Rights Michelle Bachelet, however, expressed “serious concerns about reports of lack of due process following widespread arrests linked to the protests in Egypt”.
More than 2,000 people, including lawyers, human rights defenders, political activists, university professors and journalists have been detained in the lead up and since last weekend’s protests, according to the UN, quoting civil society groups.
A number of them have since been released, it added.
“I remind the Egyptian government that under international law people have a right to protest peacefully,” Bachelet said in a statement.
“They also have a right to express their opinions, including on social media. They should never be detained, let alone charged with serious offences, simply for exercising those rights.”