Supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi have called rival demonstrations after the Islamist leader assumed sweeping powers critics say have made him a dictator.
An array of liberal and secular groups, including activists at the forefront of the protest movement that forced veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak from power early last year, planned to march on Tahrir Square, Cairo's iconic protest hub, to demonstrate against the 'new pharaoh'.
Morsi's backers led by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood gathered outside the presidential palace in north Cairo on Friday in a show of support for his decision to temporarily place his decisions above judicial oversight.
'The people support the president's decisions,' the crowd chanted.
Morsi was mulling an address to the nation defending his decision later in the day, aides said.
On Thursday, the president undercut a hostile judiciary that had been considering whether to scrap an Islamist-dominated panel drawing up a new constitution, stripping judges of the right to rule on the case or to challenge his decrees.
The decision effectively places the president above judicial oversight until a new constitution is ratified.
Morsi's opponents began making their way to Tahrir Square after the main weekly Muslim prayers.
They were expected to be joined by leading secular politicians Mohamed ElBaradei, a former UN nuclear watchdog chief and Amr Mussa, a former foreign minister and Arab League chief.
'This is a coup against legitimacy... We are calling on all Egyptians to protest in all of Egypt's squares on Friday,' said Sameh Ashour, head of the lawyers' syndicate, in a joint news conference with ElBaradei and Mussa.
ElBaradei denounced Morsi as a 'new pharaoh,' the same term of derision used against Mubarak when he was in power.
'Morsi is a 'temporary' dictator,' read the banner headline in Friday's edition of independent daily Al-Masry Youm.
The Islamist president assumed his sweeping new powers in a decree read out by his spokesman Yasser Ali on state television on Thursday.
'The president can issue any decision or measure to protect the revolution,' it said.
'The constitutional declarations, decisions and laws issued by the president are final and not subject to appeal.'
Morsi also sacked prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmud, whom he failed to oust last month, amid strong misgivings among the president's supporters about the failure to secure convictions of more members of the old regime.
Morsi appointed Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah to replace Mahmud and, within minutes of the announcement, the new prosecutor was shown on television being sworn in.
Abdallah later issued a brief statement on state television, pledging to 'work day and night to achieve the goals of the revolution'.
In his pronouncement, the president also ordered 'new investigations and retrials' in cases involving the deaths of protesters, a decision that could net military top brass and other former Mubarak regime officials.
The declaration is aimed at 'cleansing state institutions' and 'destroying the infrastructure of the old regime,' the president's spokesman said.
A senior official of the Justice and Freedom Party, the Brotherhood's political arm, said Morsi's decision was necessary to guarantee the revolution was on course.