Egyptian authorities on Monday postponed plans to disperse two Cairo sit-ins by supporters of the country's ousted president Mohammed Morsi, explaining they wanted to "avoid bloodshed," security officials said.
Judicial officials meanwhile announced that a judge ordered the deposed president, detained since his July 3 ouster, should be held for 15 more days pending investigations into charges he conspired in 2011 with Palestinian militants.
The postponement announcement came as Morsi supporters held new rallies demanding his return to power, marching down a main boulevard at the heart of Cairo chanting anti-military slogans and waving the toppled president's picture.
At least temporarily, the delay is likely to defuse tensions that had spiked overnight, with the country bracing for a new bout of violence if the police move against protesters.
Tens of thousands have occupied two encampments in Cairo's streets since even before the July 3 coup, which came after millions took to the streets demanding Morsi's removal. At least 130 Morsi supporters have been killed in two major clashes on the edges of the larger encampment.
An Egyptian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said the decision to postpone a move against the protest camps by Muslim Brotherhood supporters came after a plan on ending the sit-ins was leaked to the media.
The security forces had planned to form cordons around the Cairo protest sites as early as dawn Monday, according to officials who spoke earlier to The Associated Press.
The government's decision to clear the sit-ins came after failure of nearly two weeks of efforts by the international community to end the standoff and find a peaceful resolution. Egypt's interim prime minister warned just ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday that ended Sunday that the government's decision to clear the sit-ins was "irreversible."
Morsi was deposed after millions of Egyptians took to the streets on June 30 and for four days demanded that he step down over what they saw as his failure to act as the president of all Egyptians and his attempts to monopolize power and serve only his Muslim Brotherhood group's interests.
Morsi has not been seen since the military deposed him, disbanded his Islamists-dominated parliament and suspended the constitution. He is held incommunicado, along with some of his aides, while several top Brotherhood leaders and their Islamist allies are detained on charges of instigating deadly violence.
On Monday, a judge ordered Morsi to be detained for 15 more days, as investigations continue into charges that he conspired with Palestinian militants during the country's 2011 uprising, according to a judicial official.
Judge Hassan Samir is investigating whether Morsi colluded with Hamas to break out of the Wadi al-Natroun prison west of Cairo along with 33 other members of his Muslim Brotherhood group. This is the second time his detention has been renewed. The first was on July 26.
Other Brotherhood figures, including the group's top spiritual guide Mohammed Badie, are on the run or taking refuge amid tens of thousands of supporters at the larger of the two sit-ins in Cairo's eastern Nasr City district, where a road intersection facing Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque has been turned to a heavily fortified tent city.
The sit-in, along with a second one in Cairo's twin city of Giza, are used as sites for street rallies. The government says the protest camps are a "threat to national security."
The protests by the Brotherhood have prevented an air of normalcy from returning to Cairo's streets after nearly a month of instability.
Rights groups have published testimony of cases in which anti-Morsi protesters and others are said to have been tortured by Morsi supporters, and authorities say bodies bearing what appear to be marks of torture have been found nearby. Residents in buildings surrounding the two protest camps have long complained of harassment, restrictions on their movement and fears of getting caught in a crossfire if clashes take place.
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