CAIRO: Supporters of Egypt's deposed President Mohamed Mursi called for mass protests today against the army takeover, in a test of the Muslim Brotherhood's ability to bring out the crowds with many of its leaders now behind bars.
Egyptians are enduring the bloodiest crisis of their modern history after the military overthrew Mursi on July 3 following demonstrations against his rule. It dispersed his supporters' protest camps on August 14 and launched a campaign of arrests that has already netted the group's general guide Mohamed Badie.
At least 900 people, including 100 soldiers and police, have been killed in the crackdown on Mursi supporters in the past week, according to government sources. Brotherhood supporters say the real figure is far higher.
The clampdown appears to have weakened the Arab world's oldest and arguably most influential Islamist group, which won five successive elections in Egypt following the 2011 uprising that swept Mursi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, from power.
Pro-Mursi protests have fizzled out over the past week.
The muted reaction to the release of Mubarak yesterday highlighted the growing power shift in favour of the military he once commanded.
Brotherhood supporters have nevertheless called on Egyptians to hold marches today against the army takeover.
"We will remain steadfast on the road to defeating the military coup," a pro-Mursi alliance, called the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy and Reject the Coup, said in a statement. It named 28 mosques in Greater Cairo as points of departure for the protests.
Mubarak's release plays into the Brotherhood's argument that the military is trying to rehabilitate the old order.
The army-installed government casts its conflict with the Islamist movement as a life-or-death struggle against terrorism.
Adding to a sense among some activists that the freedoms won in the 2011 revolt are in danger, planned amendments to the constitution leaked to the media this week appear designed to place limits on political parties and ease restrictions on the participation of Mubarak-era officials in politics.
But some Egyptians, many of whom have rallied behind the army's crackdown, expressed fondness for the 85-year-old former air force commander whose tight grip on power brought stability.
"He protected the country," said Lobna Mohamed, a housewife in the crowd of Mubarak well-wishers.
"He is a good man, but we want (Abdel Fattah) Sisi now," she said, referring to the army commander who overthrew Mursi.
Meanwhile, a senior United Nations official, Jeffrey Feltman, met interim Prime Minister Hazem Al Beblawi yesterday as part of an effort to promote peace and reconciliation.
The government has bristled at foreign attempts to use aid or persuasion to nudge it to seek a political compromise..