CAIRO -- The spiritual leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood made a dramatic appearance Friday before tens of thousands of chanting supporters and denounced as “illegal” the
that ousted the country's Islamist president,
"Our president is Mohamed Morsi," the Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, told the crowd, vowing that "our souls will be sacrificed" to return Morsi to power.
The rousing speech by Badie, who had reportedly been under military arrest, was a show of defiance against the removal of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president.
"I am not arrested. This is a lie," Badie told the crowd. "We are revolutionaries. We will continue the path of the revolution."
It wasn't immediately clear whether the reports of Badie's detention were untrue or he had been released by the Egyptian military as part of a political deal with the Brotherhood.
The military issued arrest warrants for approximately 300 Brotherhood members -- including Morsi, who has been in detention since Wednesday -- but is eager to show the movement's legions of supporters that it is not taking sides in the political crisis.
Badie spoke to the massive crowd of supporters in Nasr City, in eastern Cairo, the Islamist camp’s largest gathering since Morsi’s removal. His speech was classic Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric -- rousing nationalism through God and reminding Egyptians that it was the Brotherhood that stood defiant with them through the three decades of rule by
Military helicopters flew overhead, an apparent show of tolerance -- if not support -- for the gathering. Addressing the Egyptian armed forces, whose leaders have installed an interim president and pledged fresh elections, Badie called for an end to "military rule" and urged them to allow peaceful protests.
"Do not fire your bullets against your countrymen," Badie said. "You are more honorable than this."
Hours earlier, however, security forces opened fire against a group of protesters who had marched from the Badie gathering to the nearby Republican Guard headquarters, where Morsi is believed to be held.
Medics at the scene reported multiple casualties but the security forces denied using live ammunition.