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Supporters demand ousted Egyptian leader’s return

CAIRO — Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian Islamists and other supporters of Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president who was ousted and detained by the military last week, filled public squares in Cairo and other cities Friday in an intensified campaign aimed at returning him to power. The United States also dialed up its criticism, calling on Egypt’s interim authorities to release Morsi.

The size of the protests underlined both the large section of society that has rejected the military intervention on July 3 that deposed Morsi after millions protested against him, and the continued split over the country’s direction.

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In Washington a State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the United States concurred with an assertion made earlier in the day by Germany that Morsi should be released. Asked about Germany’s position at a daily briefing, she said, “We do agree.”

Psaki declined to specify whether the United States still recognized Morsi as the president of Egypt. But her response about his detention appeared to reflect growing concern by the Obama administration over the interim government’s promises to move toward new elections and an inclusive democratic system.

Morsi has been held in an undisclosed location since Egypt’s generals ordered him removed from power. They have said he is in custody for his own safety. But the interim government has also signaled that it may prosecute him.

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