Egypt’s main opposition group today backed calls to oust President Mohamed Mursi and demanded he go on trial after deadly clashes left the Islamist leader scrambling to contain fallout from footage of police brutality.

The opposition National Salvation Front demanded Mursi be prosecuted for “killings and torture” as it urged Egyptians to stage peaceful protests.

“The Salvation Front completely sides with the people and its active forces’ calls to topple the authoritarian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood’s control,” it said in a statement.

It said Mursi should be put on trial after an “impartial investigation” and ruled out dialogue with the presidency until “the bloodletting stops and those responsible for it are held accountable.”

But, in a possible sign of differences in a troubled coalition that comprises liberals and leftists, NSF members disagreed on the statement’s intent.

“We are calling for the downfall of the regime of tyranny, not the regime,” said Khaled Dawoud, the NSF’s spokesman, explaining it meant “the abuse of citizens and torture and ignoring the demands of the opposition.”

But another NSF member, Hussein Abdel Ghani, said: “I think this statement can be read to mean only one thing, which is to topple Mursi’s government.”

Clashes last night between protesters and police outside the presidential palace left one dead, and police were filmed beating and dragging off another man, in the wake of clashes last week that killed nearly 60 people.

The beating was “an inhumane spectacle ... no less ugly than the killings of martyrs, which is considered a continuation of the security force’s programme of excessive force,” the NSF said.

A 23-year-old was shot dead and 91 people were injured in yesterday’s clashes, a medic said, while the interior ministry reported 15 of its men wounded by birdshot.

Police said they made 20 arrests, and they were filmed on television beating and dragging a naked man to an armoured vehicle, outraging Mursi’s critics who compared the incident to practices under deposed president Hosni Mubarak.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim has ordered a probe to “hold accountable” the policemen who beat the man, his office said. He would resign if “that’s what the people want.”

(This article was published on February 3, 2013)
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