* Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya members killed tourists in Luxor
* Appointment infuriated Egyptians, triggering protests
* Hardline group out in force at Friday's pro-Mursi rally
By Yasmine Saleh
CAIRO, June 22 A hardline Islamist group called
on Saturday on one of its members to resign as governor of Luxor
"for the sake of Egypt" despite President Mohamed Mursi
defending the appointment.
Mursi infuriated many Egyptians this week by swearing in
al-Gamaa al-Islamiya's Adel Mohamed al-Khayat as governor of the
town where members of the group massacred 58 tourists at a
pharaonic temple in 1997.
Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, members of which were also charged
with killing President Anwar Sadat in 1981, along with other
politicians and police in the 1980s and 90s, renounced violence
and condemned al Qaeda in ideological U-turns a decade ago.
Many of its members were jailed for decades under former
President Hosni Mubarak but Mursi freed them last year shortly
after his election following Mubarak's ousting by an uprising in
2011, with many moving into public life.
In an interview with the state-owned newspaper Akhbar
Al-Youm published on Saturday, Mursi said: "There has never been
a court ruling against the Luxor governor who was never
condemned in the Luxor incident but was a suspect in the
assassination of Sadat and was acquitted."
The hiring of Luxor governor showed that Mursi, who hails
from the relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood group is openly
reaching out for a political alliance with the more radical and
former militant group ahead of a big wave of opposition-led
protests expected to start on June 30.
However, just hours after the paper carried the interview on
its front page and three inside pages, Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya's
political wing called on the new governor to resign.
"We are not after any post," the group's leader, Safwat
Abdel Ghani told a news conference, adding he expected Khayat to
officially announce his resignation on Saturday night. "We asked
the new governor to resign for the sake of Egypt."
The group may be trying to find way a way out of the impasse
before the opposition protests by showing it understands the
needs of the country and taking the pressure off Mursi. Tourism
is one of the mainstays of Egypt's economy, but has suffered
badly in two years of unrest.
Mursi said al-Gamaa al-Islamiya's newly founded Construction
and Development Party "works in the framework of a civil state
and the governor was picked after was seen as better than all
Mursi also appointed many members of his Brotherhood as
governors, triggering protests in many cities and preventing the
appointees entering their offices.
The president denied tourism minister had resigned over the
Luxor appointment, although a source in the ministry said the
minister has stopped going to his office since Khayat was named.
Thousands of protesters from al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, the
Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists' groups staged a big
rally on Friday for Mursi and warned opponents, who they
described as atheists, agents for Western states and anti-Islam,
the would crush them if they forced Mursi out.
The opposition called it an attempt to "terrorise" them
before mass rallies they plan for just over a week's time.
Echoing the same language as al-Gamaa al-Islamiya,
opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei called on Mursi to resign.
"The regime has to understand that time has come for change
... For the sake of Egypt, many Egyptians had elected Mursi and
for Egypt I ask President Mohamed Mursi to resign and to leave
for a new stage to begin," he told an opposition rally.
The June 30 rally is planned by a group of young independent
Egyptians called Tamarud (Rebel), which says it has gathered
more than 15 million signatures in a month from people among the
84 million population wanting Mursi to quit.
Both the youth movement and established opposition leaders
are demanding an early presidential vote after what they
describe as Mursi's failure to live up to any of his promises of
more freedoms and better living and economic conditions.
But Mursi's allies say he needs more time than one year in
office to tackle Egypt's deep economic and political problems.
In a previous interview, Mursi described the call for an early
presidential vote as "absurd and illegitimate".
In Saturday's interview, Mursi said the call for the June 30
protests "reflects an atmosphere of freedoms granted by the
January (2011) revolution", but said that any expression of
opinion has to be done peacefully and that the government was
ready to face violence from any side with all measures.
(Additinal reporting by Omar Fahmy, Writing by Yasmine Saleh;
Editing by Alison Williams)