CAIRO (AP) — The family of Egypt's ousted president lashed out at the military on Monday, accusing the generals of kidnapping Mohammed Morsi, who has been detained incommunicado in an unknown location for nearly three weeks.
New violence erupted around protests by Morsi supporters demanding his reinstatement, killing at least four people. Pro-Morsi protesters marched near Cairo's Tahrir Square, battled with Morsi opponents camped out in the square, trading stones and gunfire, while further clashes erupted in a city north of Cairo.
The statement by Morsi's family at a Cairo press conference underlined the unknown fate of Egypt's first freely elected president. Morsi has not been seen and has had no known contact with lawyers, family or supporters since the military ousted him on July 3 after mass protests nationwide demanding his removal.
Since his ouster, the Islamist leader has become a tool for both sides. The new military-backed government has used Morsi to put pressure on his Muslim Brotherhood, launching criminal investigations without actually bringing charges against him. Government officials have said only that he is safe, is well cared for and is being held for his own protection.
The Brotherhood, in turn, has sought to drum up sympathy by saying Morsi's detention shows the military's coup is taking the country into dictatorship, as it tries to expand street protests demanding he be reinstated as president.
European Union foreign ministers on Monday called for the release of Morsi and "all political detainees," saying it was among their key priorities for Egypt's new leadership. The United States has also urged Morsi's release. Along with Morsi, at least five other senior Brotherhood figures are in detention.
At Monday's press conference, Morsi's daughter Shaimaa read out a statement by the family, saying, "We hold the leaders of the bloody military coup fully responsible for the safety and security of the president."
One of Morsi's sons, Osama, described his father's detention as the "embodiment of the abduction of popular will and a whole nation," and said the family will "take all legal actions" to end his detention.
"What happened is a crime of kidnapping," said Osama, who is a lawyer. "I can't find any legal means to have access to him."
He said that the family met with Morsi for the last time on July 3, shortly before military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi announced the president's ouster. Since then, they have had no contact with him.
Egypt's prosecutors have said they are investigating allegations that Morsi and Brotherhood officials conspired with the Palestinian militant group Hamas to carry out a 2011 attack on prisons that broke Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders out of jail during the 18-day uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak. However, prosecutors have not formally ordered Morsi detained for investigation — meaning his detention effectively remains outside the legal system.
However, also there also seemed to be a media campaign aimed at further depicting Morsi as turning to outside powers. On Monday, the state-run Al-Ahram daily splashed on its front page claims of a new investigation against Morsi, though the prosecutors' office and the military quickly denied its report.
The report claimed investigators were examining whether Morsi asked the United States to intervene militarily in Egypt and asked Hamas to "spark violence" in the Sinai to rescue his rule in the final hours before el-Sissi removed him. The paper claimed the military had recordings of the conversations.
The prosecutor-general's spokesman, Ahmed el-Rakeeb, said the report was not true and that Al-Ahram's chief editor Abdel-Nasser Salama was summoned for questioning over it, the state news agency MENA said. Military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali in a statement accused the paper of "aiming to cause confusion and provoke public opinion."
The US Embassy in Cairo also issued a statement denying the paper report and described it as "totally fabricated and completely untrue."
The United States has been caught in Egypt's political turmoil, as rival parties accuse it to meddling in the country's affairs.
On Monday, a senior Brotherhood figure escalated the group's campaign against the United States, calling on protesters to "besiege" the embassy and expel the ambassador.
Essam el-Erian, deputy head of the Brotherhood's political party said Monday, "the American role in the coup is very clear and no one can hide." He spoke at a gathering of some 100 other Islamist former lawmakers from the now-disbanded upper house of parliament, which under Morsi was the only legislative body.
Hours after, several hundred Islamists tried to march toward the U.S. Embassy, passing near Tahrir Square, where Morsi opponents have been camped out. Rock-throwing clashes erupted between the two sides, and gunshots were heard, though it was not clear who opened fire. Both sides were seen to have what appeared to be homemade pistols.
One Morsi opponent was killed and dozens of others wounded, some by birdshot and two by live ammunition, said George Ihab, a doctor at a field clinic set up by the anti-Morsi camp.
Several in the anti-Morsi camp said the protesters attacked their people guarding one of the entrances to Tahrir near a bridge over the Nile River.
"They attacked us from Qasr el-Nil Bridge with birdshot and live ammunition and molotovs," said Ahmed Korashi, whose hand was burned from what he said was a firebomb.
The Muslim Brotherhood in a tweet denied its supporters attacked Tahrir, saying its protests are peaceful.
At the same time, clashes erupted in Qalioub, north of Cairo, when pro-Morsi protesters blocked a highway between the capital and the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria, security officials said. Security forces demanded they clear the way, and protesters fired ammunition in the air. Clashes erupted with protesters throwing stones and security forces firing tear gas.
At least three people were killed in the clashes, including a 15-year-old and an 18-year-old who died from gunshot wounds, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
At the same time, thousands of Morsi supporters continued to mass outside Cairo's Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque, where they have been holding a sit-in for more than three weeks.
Security officials said the body of a 33-year-old rtextile worker, Amr Magdy Samak, was found near the sit-in with signs of torture. His body had bruises and his nails had been torn off, the officials said, adding that the death was still being investigated.
In the Sinai Peninsula, suspected Islamic militants attacked security checkpoints in the town of Sheikh Zuweyid and the nearby city of el-Arish, killing a civilian and wounding three soldiers, security officials said. The peninsula has seen an uptick in militant violence since Morsi's fall.
Associated Press writer Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.