Cairo: Egypt braced Friday for a second weekend of protests, as anger stemming from economic hardship and alleged top-level corruption threatens to eclipse a long-standing ban on street rallies despite an intensifying crackdown.
Last week´s open defiance of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi -- triggered by viral videos from exiled Egyptian businessman Mohamed Aly -- has surprised observers in a country where opposition of all stripes has been severely curtailed.
Elected president in 2014 after pushing predecessor Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood from power the previous year, Sisi is seen by many as one of the most authoritarian figures in the Middle East.
Construction magnate Aly has called for a "million-man march" and a "people´s revolution" to unseat the uncompromising head of state.
Road blocks prevented traffic from entering Cairo´s Tahrir Square on Friday morning, AFP journalists said, although it was still possible to move into the area on foot.
Aly accuses Sisi of building lavish palaces while taxpayers grapple with the impact of austerity under an IMF loan programme totalling $12 billion.
In recent days, security has been visibly stepped up, especially in Tahrir Square -- the epicentre of the 2011 popular revolt that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
That iconic location was key to last week´s demonstrations, which broke out after a football match with protesters chanting "leave, Sisi!" and accusing him of heading a "military regime".
Alongside beefing up their presence on the streets, the security forces have also detained people they suspect of being key influencers of unrest -- journalists, human rights activists and lawyers.
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