Cairo crowds demand army crackdown on corruption

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 08, 2011 1:44 PM

By Shaimaa Fayed

CAIRO (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Egyptians protested in Cairo on Friday demanding the prosecution of Hosni Mubarak and accusing the military of being too slow to root out corruption from his era.

"Oh Field Marshal, we've been very patient!" chanted some of the demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square, the hub of the protests that toppled Mubarak from the presidency and left the army, led by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, in charge.

Friday's protest had swollen by early afternoon to at least 100,000, making it one of the largest since Mubarak was toppled and indicating growing frustration with the army, which has enjoyed broad support since it took control of the country on February 11.

The crowd's demands included the removal of remaining Mubarak-era officials, such as the powerful provincial governors.

"It's a strong message that the revolution is not over yet and is still going on and will not quieten down before its goals are realized," said Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science and a prominent figure in the reform movement.

A coalition of youth groups which was at the heart of mobilizing the protests against Mubarak named the protest "The Friday of Purification and Accountability."

Street action remained "the real guarantee to the success of the revolution," it said in a statement. "There has to be continued pressure for the quick and effective realizations of the demands of the revolution," it said.

"Oh Field Marshal, oh Field Marshal, we are staying in Tahrir," read one of the banners directed at Tantawi, who served as defense minister in Mubarak's administration from 1991 until he was ousted from the presidency.

The military has scheduled a parliamentary election for September. It has said a presidential election will be held in either October or November, until when the army will hold presidential powers.

"ENOUGH COLLUSION"

"We are calling on the Field Marshal to meet the demands of the people," said Ibrahim Ahmed, a 20-year old student. "Enough collusion in not carrying out prosecutions," he said.

The interim government installed by the military council has set up a new committee to uncover corruption from Mubarak's 30-year rule. The illicit gains panel is set to question Gamal Mubarak, the president's son, next week.

"If Mubarak is not prosecuted, we will go to Sharm el-Sheikh," read another banner held aloft by the protesters, who waved Egyptian flags.

Mubarak has been living in the Red Sea resort since he was ousted. The military has said the 82-year-old president, himself a former military officer, is banned from leaving the country.

The campaign against Mubarak-era figures has resulted in the arrest of once untouchable figures including the former interior minister and other ministers who held economic portfolios and are accused of corruption.

Zakaria Azmi, a leading Mubarak aide, was the latest high-profile figure to be arrested. He was detained on Thursday on accusations of illegal gains. Reformists questioned why it had taken so long.

"There is a feeling that the military council faces many restrictions," Nafaa, the political science professor, said.

"The aim of the protest isn't to criticize or revolt, but to express a sense of frustration because of the tardiness in bringing to trial those responsible for corruption," he said.

(Writing/additional reporting by Tom Perry; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)