CAIRO -- The family of ousted President Mohammed Morsi furiously denounced the military yesterday, 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 yesterday, with clashes breaking out between Morsi supporters and opponents near Tahrir Square, and between pro-Morsi demonstrators and police in a city on the capital's northern edge. At least four people were killed.
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 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 between Brotherhood figures and the interim government, through mediators, have centered on releasing Morsi and other detained leaders 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.