Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters demonstrated across Egypt on Friday, responding to a call from a pro-Mohamed Morsi alliance for daily protests until the ousted president stands trial on Monday.
In Alexandria, seven people were wounded after supporters of the deposed president clashed with residents before security forces intervened, firing tear gas and arresting 13 demonstrators, security officials said. Fighting also erupted in the Gisr al-Suez district of Cairo.
Protesters chanted slogans denouncing the Brotherhood leader’s trial as "fake" and vowing, "Stay strong, Mr. President, we are behind you with a million martyrs."
The charges against Morsi relate to the deaths of about a dozen people in clashes outside the presidential palace last December that erupted after the then-president issued a decree expanding his powers.
The trial has emerged as a flashpoint in the struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army-backed interim government.
As this latest round of protests erupts, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is preparing to visit Egypt on Sunday, the day before Morsi goes on trial.
The state news agency said Kerry's visit, the first since Morsi's fall, would last only several hours. The U.S. is hoping to mend ties between Washington and Cairo, which have deteriorated since the overthrow of Morsi, who, following the ouster of authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak, became Egypt's first democratically elected president.
The man who removed him, army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has become a polarizing figure as many Egyptians have turned against the Brotherhood and anyone perceived as a supporter, including the United States.
State-run newspapers often carry conspiracy theories that suggest the White House backed the Brotherhood to ensure U.S. domination of Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. That dynamic could make it difficult for Washington to lobby successfully for democracy in Egypt.
In a sign of the tension, the U.S. said on Oct. 9 it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles to Egypt, as well as $260 million in cash aid, pending progress on democracy and human rights.
The U.S. government has repeatedly urged the interim authorities to govern in a more inclusive manner — code for accommodating the Brotherhood and restoring democratic rule.
The Brotherhood and its allies have called on crowds to gather on Monday outside a police institute near Cairo's notorious Tora prison, where Morsi's trial is expected to take place. The former president has been held in a secret location since July.
In previous attempts to quell protests, hundreds of Brotherhood supporters have been killed and the group’s leaders imprisoned, leading to fears that some members of the group will take up arms against the state. Egypt has also declared a state of emergency and imposed a nighttime curfew. A court has outlawed the Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest Islamist movement, and ordered its assets seized.
On Thursday, Egyptian authorities took the unusual step of detaining 22 women Brotherhood members in Alexandria.
Nasser al-Abd, a senior security official in Egypt's second city, said the charges against the women include using force to disrupt traffic during protests, membership in an outlawed group and distributing illegal leaflets.
"We are living in oppression and darkness," said a woman named Um Yumna, whose daughter was among the detainees. "I can't believe that they made the girls kneel and held up pistols to them. May God avenge this and hurt their hearts like they hurt ours."
Abd, the security official, denied any mistreatment.
Brotherhood supporters and some civil-society organizations accuse the army of staging a coup and returning Egypt to the iron-fisted Mubarak era. The army says it acted in response to mass protests against Morsi and has set out plans for a new constitution and elections.
In an apparently isolated incident on Friday, unidentified gunmen opened fire inside a well-known Giza hotel situated on the road to the pyramids from Cairo, state-run Al-Ahram Online reported.
Al-Ahram said the gunfire resulted from a dispute over drinks. There were no casualties.
Al Jazeera and Reuters