Egyptian police dispersed a demonstration in Abdel-Moneim Riyad Square on Friday, held to protest last week’s court ruling clearing ousted president Hosni Mubarak of charges that he had conspired to kill protesters in 2011.
Police used batons to disperse demonstrators, several of whom were arrested at random, eyewitnesses reported.
The Interior Ministry has yet to comment on the incident, but police usually disperse unauthorized protests in line with a controversial law regulating street demonstrations.
Security forces had closed off Cairo’s Tahrir Square earlier on Friday to prevent protesters from gathering at the iconic location, which was the epicenter of a popular revolution that ousted Mubarak in 2011.
The security crackdown came as the Independence Party announced its withdrawal from an alliance supporting deposed president Mohammed Mursi.
Friday’s rallies were called by the main support bloc for the ousted Mursi and a handful of youth-led activist groups to protest a court ruling that dropped murder charges against Mubarak, his former interior minister, Habib al-Adly, and six former security officials.
The men had been charged with corruption ordering the murder of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators during the 18-day uprising in 2011. Mubarak and Adly were initially sentenced to 25 years in prison, but the court subsequently ordered a retrial after the their lawyers successfully appealed the sentence. The former president has since been sentenced to three years in prison.
Saturday’s ruling exonerating Mubarak angered many Egyptians, with some relatives of slain protesters, as hundreds took to the streets near Tahrir Square and blocked it to traffic to protest the autocrat’s acquittal and demand “retribution.” Three demonstrators were killed after security forces violently dispersed the protest.
Egypt’s prosecutor-general has appealed the ruling. If Mubarak is retried in the case, it would be for the third and final time under Egyptian law.
Many Egyptians who lived through Mubarak’s rule view it as a period of autocracy and crony capitalism.
His overthrow led to Egypt’s first free election. But the winner, Mursi, was ousted last year by the army, following mass protests against the Islamist’s one-year rule.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, former army chief general who went on to win a presidential election in May, has vowed that the Muslim Brotherhood would cease to exist under his rule and launched a crackdown on them and other Mursi supporters.
Authorities have since killed hundreds, jailed thousands and sentenced hundreds to death in mass trials that have drawn international criticism.
In the wake of the heavy crackdowns, several Islamist parties established the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy alliance, which has been hit by rifts in recent months.
In a statement on Friday, Egypt’s Independence Party announced that it suspended its membership in the alliance, which is Mursi’s main support bloc, shortly after the Salafi Front withdrew from it as well.
“We have been mulling the decision to withdraw from the alliance for a whole year,” the party said.
In September, the Salafi Watan Party suspended its membership in the bloc, one month after the Islamist Wasat Party also withdrew from the alliance.
In early October, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb issued a decree dissolving the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy and Reject the Coup, a pro-Mursi organization, as well as its political arm, the Independence Party, following an earlier court ruling against them.
Egypt banned the Muslim Brotherhood itself last year and dissolved its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, in August, precluding it from running in parliamentary elections expected to take place in the next few months.