Protesters mar Egyptian author's France appearance

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By JAMEY KEATEN and SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — Supporters of deposed former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi disrupted a Paris gathering featuring best-selling Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany, forcing him to flee the hall.

Jack Lang, a Socialist former culture minister who heads the Arab World Institute in Paris, said Friday that it was filing a legal complaint against unspecified culprits for damages after the incident at its gleaming Left Bank building. No one was injured in the melee on Wednesday, he said.

"A band of apparently pro-Morsi militants infiltrated (the conference) and took seats up front," said Lang, who was in his office nearby at the time. "I don't know exactly what was said, but insults were exchanged ... they (protesters) shook the table and one succeeded in breaking a window with I-don't-know what."

Video posted online showed protesters pushing through French listeners in the audience, and hurling objects at al-Aswany, and the sound of breaking glass. He left through a back door on the stage and an exit in the floor behind it, and the appearance was cancelled.

Al-Aswany gave cautious early backing to Morsi after his election victory, but supported the Egyptian military's decision to remove him this summer. Morsi's supporters have protested against the military-backed interim government and its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood — the Islamist network that counts Morsi as a leader.

"They came to the lecture to take revenge," the author said by telephone from the southern city of Marseille, where he was promoting the French translation of "The Automobile Club," his latest book. "As a novelist, I was prevented from speaking about literature in France ... this is regrettable."

Over the years, al-Aswany has variously criticized the military and former President Hosni Mubarak, whose ouster in Egypt's revolution in 2011 paved the way for Morsi's rise to power.

Al-Aswany and many other supporters of the revolution, however, grew dismayed as Morsi and his Islamist allies tried to consolidate power and violently crack down on dissent — leading them to support the army's overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood leader.

"I am also a person who always says what he believes, and am extremely sensitive to dealing with authorities," al-Aswany said, defending his support of Morsi's ouster. "But when the military takes to the streets to support millions of people against violence, I will not call this wrong."

He said he believed the Paris incident would show the Brotherhood's effort to depict itself as a victim "doesn't really fit them."

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El Deeb reported from Cairo.

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