Egypt protest demands president step down

Egypt protest demands president step down

The demonstrations came after self-exiled Egyptian businessman and actor Mohamed Ali accused President el-Sisi of corruption and called on people to take to the streets and demand the leader is removed.

Under President el-Sisi's rule, the authorities have launched a broad crackdown on dissidents, jailing thousands of politicians, activists, journalists, popular bloggers and others.

Anti-government protests are rare in Egypt since Sisi took power in 2013 and has employed an iron-fisted approach to political dissent.

A subsequent sit-in by Islamists was broken up by Egyptian security forces in an operation that left hundreds dead.

The willingness of the protesters to defy police and laws that all but ban public protests suggests Friday could be a turning point, however small.

There was a heavy security presence in downtown Cairo and on Tahrir Square where mass protests started in 2011 which toppled veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Thousands shared footage on social media documenting the demonstrations, which sprang up in several cities, including Alexandria, Mahalla, Damietta, Mansoura and Suez.

It has been the largest electronic demonstration since the removal of the late first-ever freely-elected Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi.

But Egyptians were spurred to the streets after calls on social media from Mohamed Ali, a former building contractor who worked with the country's military.

In a rambling speech on Tuesday, El-Sisi angrily dismissed the allegations as "sheer lies".

"I think it's safe to say that the events of the past few weeks, including the development last night, pose the most serious legitimacy crisis facing Sissi", Nael Shama, a Cairo-based political analyst, told AFP.

The protests were a response to corruption allegations against the Egyptian president and his government. His government also has the backing of the United States and other regional heavyweights like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

Human Rights Watch urged authorities on Saturday to "protect the right" to protest peacefully as well as demanding that those arrested be released.

There are reports of casualties after protesters clashed with security forces.

"The authorities should recognise that the world is watching and take all necessary steps to avoid a repetition of past atrocities".

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