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Egypt’s el-Sisi warns of instability after anti-govt. protests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Egyptians hold anti-government demonstrations after weekly Friday prayers, on September 25, 2020 (A photo by (Photo by Turkey's Anadolu Agency)

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has warned against attempts to fuel instability in the North African country following a recent spate of anti-government demonstrations. 

Egypt has been the scene of mass protests against the government of el-Sisi over the past week, with demonstrators demanding his resignation as they defied heavy-handed police crackdown across the country.

The demonstrations have over the past days drawn thousands of people to the Egyptian capital of Cairo, and the governorates of Giza, Damietta on the Nile Delta and Luxor in southern Egypt.

The latest protests were also triggered by President el-Sisi's decision to demolish what he called illegal construction nationwide, which have required people to pay fines to legalize home-ownership.

During his speech on Sunday, Sisi thanked Egyptians for not heeding calls for anti-government protests, saying the government was undertaking the measures as part of reforms. 

"Some people have been trying in recent weeks to take advantage of the tough measures we are taking," Sisi said at a ceremony to inaugurate an oil refining complex north of Cairo.

"They choose the hard conditions to harm and cast doubts among Egyptians over what we do." 

The protests continued across Egyptian cities and rural areas for the seventh consecutive day on Saturday over “corruption and deteriorating living conditions” in the country, with protesters chanting slogans against Sisi’s administration.

On Saturday, family and medical sources said a protester was killed in clashes between protesters and police in a village south of Cairo.

The victim, identified as Sami Wagdy Bashir, 25, was killed in al-Blida village in the Giza governorate. Three others were also wounded.

Several videos were posted online, purportedly showing security forces firing live bullets to disperse angry protesters in Egypt.

Prominent rights lawyers also reported on Facebook the arrest of more than 150 people in the demonstrations.  

On Sunday, Egypt's public prosecutor said it ordered the release of 68 minors who took part in the demonstrations.

Egyptian nationals also staged anti-Sisi demonstrations in other cities across the world, including in Milan, Amsterdam and Sydney. The German city of Munich was also due to host a mass rally on Sunday.

Exiled businessman Mohamed Ali, who has urged anti-Sisi protests since last year, has intensified his calls in recent weeks in online videos, calling on Egyptians to take to the streets against the government.

Ali said, “This is our chance to liberate our country.”

“Every day, our numbers are rising. There is no difference between Christian and Muslim … secular or liberal, we are the people of Egypt,” he added, urging people to participate in the nationwide rallies.

The prominent opposition figure accused Sisi’s government of wasting money on lavish construction projects.

Last year’s protests sparked a wide-ranging crackdown by Egypt’s police and security forces, with Amnesty International saying at least 4,000 people had been arrested during the unrest.

Security services tried to pre-empt the latest wave of protests by launching a campaign of arrests that included political figures and high-profile activists.

Egypt declared as unauthorized all demonstrations in 2013 after Sisi, the then-defense minister, led a military coup and ousted democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi. Egyptian authorities have since imprisoned and prosecuted thousands of people, intensifying a nationwide crackdown on critical voices.

Last year, a draft of constitutional amendments proposed by Egyptian lawmakers showed the changes would allow President el-Sisi to stay in power for up to 12 years beyond his current term.

Sisi came to power in June 2014, one year after he led the military to oust the first democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi in a coup.

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