CAIRO — The family of ousted President Mohammed Morsi furiously denounced the military Monday, accusing it of "kidnapping" him, and European diplomats urged that Egypt's first freely elected leader be released after being held incommunicado for nearly three weeks since being deposed by the army.
The fate of Morsi, who has been held without charge, has become a focus of the political battle between his Muslim Brotherhood and the new military-backed government.
The Brotherhood has tried to use Morsi's detention to rally the country to its side, hoping to restore its badly damaged popularity. The interim government, in turn, appears in part to be using it to pressure his supporters into backing down from their protests demanding his reinstatement.
Those protests again turned violent Monday, with clashes breaking out between Morsi supporters and opponents near Cairo's Tahrir Square, and between pro-Morsi demonstrators and police in a city on the capital's northern edge. At least four people were killed.
More clashes erupted early Tuesday, with the Brotherhood claiming that one person was killed when police opened fire on a pro-Morsi march in Cairo. Police and health officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
So far, however, the outcry over Morsi's detention seems to have gained little traction beyond the president's supporters, without bringing significantly greater numbers to its ongoing rallies around the country.
Millions of Egyptians filled the streets starting June 30, demanding the president's removal after a year in office and leading to the coup that ousted him. Anti-Brotherhood sentiment remains strong, further fueled by protests that block traffic in congested city centers and by media that have kept a staunchly anti-Morsi line. Egyptian human rights groups have said he should either be freed or charged.
Behind-the-scenes talks have been taking place through mediators between Brotherhood figures and the interim government — centered around releasing Morsi and other detained leaders of the group in return for an end to protests by his supporters, according to Mohammed Aboul-Ghar, head of a liberal political party that backed the president's overthrow.
The military fears that Morsi's release "would only increase protests and make them more aggressive," he told The Associated Press. At least five other prominent Brotherhood members have also been detained. The military also has said that there is no way the measures taken against Morsi will be reversed.
The Brotherhood so far seems unlikely to make a deal, saying it cannot accept a military coup. It and other Morsi supporters vow they will not stop protests until he is returned to office, and they have said there will be no negotiations with the new leadership unless it accepts his reinstatement. They have denied any back-channel talks are taking place.
In a toughly worded statement Monday, the Brotherhood laid out a plan for resolving the crisis that was little changed from what Morsi proposed in his final days in office. It said Morsi must first be reinstated along with the now-dissolved upper house of parliament and the suspended constitution, followed by new parliament elections that would start a process for amending the constitution, and then a "national dialogue" could be held.
It denounced those behind Morsi's ouster as "putschists" and accused "coup commanders, with foreign support" of overthrowing "all the hopes in a democratic system."
Interim President Adly Mansour repeated calls for reconciliation in a nationally televised speech Monday evening. "We ... want to turn a new page in the nation's book," he said. "No contempt, no hatred, no divisions and no collisions."
Morsi was detained July 3, when Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the army chief, announced his removal. He is held at an undisclosed location and has had no contact with family or supporters. Government officials have said only that he is safe, is well-cared for and is being held for his own protection.
Two of Morsi's children lashed out at the military over his detention, saying his family has not been permitted to see him since then.
"What happened is a crime of kidnapping," one of his sons, Osama, told a Cairo news conference. "I can't find any legal means to have access to him."
The younger Morsi, who is a lawyer, called his father's detention the "embodiment of the abduction of popular will and a whole nation," and said the family will "take all legal actions" to end his detention.
In a statement read by Morsi's daughter, Shaimaa, the family said it held "the leaders of the bloody military coup fully responsible for the safety and security of the president."