Egypt’s public prosecutor has ordered an investigation into violence that broke out last Friday between Islamist and liberal demonstrators, including accusations against top-ranking officials in the Muslim Brotherhood, the state news agency said.
Opponents and supporters of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi threw stones, bottles and petrol bombs, and some fought hand-to-hand on Friday, a sign of tensions between rival groups trying to shape the new Egypt after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
Liberals and leftists accused members of the Muslim Brotherhood of attacking them in an attempt to crush protests against Mursi, whose opponents say has failed to deliver on promises for his first 100 days in office .
The Brotherhood has denied the accusations.
Many of the thousands who gathered in Tahrir Square on Friday were also angry at a court ruling that acquitted former officials charged with ordering a camel-and-horseback attack on protesters in the uprising that ousted Mubarak last year.
Public Prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud ordered the intelligence services and the Interior Ministry to investigate those behind Friday’s violence which injured at least 147 people, state news agency MENA said.
The public prosecution received 53 official complaints accusing various political figures, including senior Muslim Brotherhood members Essam el-Erian and Mohamed Beltagy, as well as Islamist cleric Safwat Hegazi, of ordering their supporters to use violence against peaceful protesters, MENA said.
Erian and Beltagy could not be reached for comment but Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel Maksoud told Reuters the accusations were “malicious and lack evidence” and that Brotherhood members who were injured on Friday would also file a complaint to the Public Prosecutor against civil forces.
Initial investigations showed that birdshot had been used in the clashes, MENA said, adding that protesters had also been subjected to verbal insults, sexual assaults, and theft.
Three people suspected of setting fire to vehicles during the clashes have been detained.
Tensions have risen between the judiciary and Mursi after he tried to remove Prosecutor General Mahmoud from his post last week, seen as a response to the acquittal of those who were standing trial on charges of ordering the horse-and-camel charge last year. Mursi had sought to appoint Mahmoud as ambassador to the Vatican.
The move triggered an outcry from judges who said Mursi had exceeded his powers and attacked the independence of the judiciary.
The Supreme Judicial Council presented Mursi with a petition on Saturday demanding Mahmoud stay in his job. The presidency in turn said Mursi would halt moves to make him an ambassador.