Egypt’s president declares 30-day state of emergency

Egypt’s president last night declared a 30-day state of emergency and night curfew in the three Suez Canal provinces hit hardest by the wave of violence that has left more than 50 dead in the past four days.

Seven people were shot dead and hundreds were injured in Port Said yesterday during the funerals of 33 protesters killed at the weekend.

A total of 49 people have been killed in demonstrations around the country since Thursday and Mohammed Morsi’s opponents have called for more protests today.

Angry and almost screaming, Morsi vowed in a televised address that he would not hesitate to take even more action to stem the latest eruption of violence across much of the country.

But at the same time, he sought to reassure Egyptians that his latest moves would not plunge the country back into authoritarianism.

“There is no going back on freedom, democracy and the supremacy of the law,” he said.

The three provinces are Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez and the curfew, also for a month, is effective from 9pm to 6am.

The worst violence this weekend was in the Mediterranean coastal city of Port Said, where at least 44 people died in two days of clashes there that began on Saturday. The spark was a court conviction and death sentence for 21 defendants involved in a mass soccer riot in the city’s main stadium on Feb 1, 2012 that left 74 dead.

Most of those sentenced to death were local soccer fans from Port Said, deepening a sense of persecution that Port Said’s residents have felt since the stadium disaster, the worst soccer violence ever in Egypt.

At least another 11 died on Friday elsewhere in the country during rallies marking the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak. Protesters used the occasion to renounce Morsi and his Islamic fundamentalist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which emerged as the country’s most dominant political force after Mubarak’s ouster.

Morsi, in office since June, also invited the nation’s political forces to a dialogue starting today to resolve the latest crisis.

The predominantly secular and liberal opposition has in the past declined Morsi’s offers of dialogue, arguing that he must first show a political will to meet some of its demands.

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