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Stocks dive & more than 500 arrested as Egypt reacts to Morsi power grab

CAIRO -- Egypt's stock market plunged on Sunday in its first day open since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi seizure of new powers set off street violence and a political crisis, unraveling efforts to restore stability after last year's revolution.

More than 500 people have been injured in protests since Friday, when Egyptians awoke to news that Morsi had issued a decree widening his powers and shielding them from judicial review.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters were expected to turn out again on the streets in a show of support after prayers on Sunday afternoon. His supporters and opponents are both planning massive demonstrations on Tuesday that many fear will lead to more violence.

Sunday's stock market fall of nearly 10 percent — halted only by automatic curbs — was the worst since the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in Feb 2011. Images of protesters clashing with riot police and tear gas wafting through Cairo's Tahrir Square were an unsettling reminder of that revolution.

“We are back to square one, politically, socially,” said Mohamed Radwan of Pharos Securities, an Egyptian brokerage firm.

Judges announced on Saturday they would go on strike. Liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei called Morsi a “dictator.”

Forged out of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, the Morsi administration has defended his decree as an effort to speed up reforms that will complete Egypt's democratic transformation.

Yet leftists, liberals, socialists and others say it has exposed the autocratic impulses of a man once jailed by Mubarak, while Islamist parties have rallied behind Morsi.

“There is no room for dialogue when a dictator imposes the most oppressive, abhorrent measures and then says 'let us split the difference,'” prominent opposition leader ElBaradei said.

“I am waiting to see, I hope soon, a very strong statement of condemnation by the U.S., by Europe and by everybody who really cares about human dignity,” he said in an interview with Reuters and the Associated Press.

Activists opposed to the Morsi decree were camped out in central Cairo for a third consecutive day. State media reported that Morsi met for a second day with his advisers.

Many of Morsi's political opponents share the view that Egypt's judiciary needs reform. But they see the decree as a threat to the country's nascent democracy.

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