Egyptian protesters camp in city centers

AP News
Posted: Jul 09, 2011 5:19 PM
Egyptian protesters camp in city centers

Egyptians set up protest tent camps in city squares across the country, vowing Saturday they would not leave until Egypt's temporary military rulers purge the remnants of Hosni Mubarak's deposed regime.

The demonstrators also demanded that those responsible for killing hundreds during the uprising that ousted Mubarak be brought to justice.

Tent cities sprang up in major cities, including Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, as well as outlying provinces, in the most far-flung and organized attempt in recent months to pressure the military council that is to lead Egypt to democracy.

Prime Minster Minister Essam Sharaf addressed the nation later Saturday, promising to suspend all officers accused of killing protesters and to speed up court cases against them and against others accused of corruption.

Mohammed ElBaradei, a leading pro-democracy campaigner and presidential hopeful, warned in a tweet Saturday: "The gap between the people and the rulers is getting wider. There must be a quick and decisive response to the revolution's demands."

The exhilaration of Mubarak's Feb. 11 ouster, after 18 days of mass protests, has yielded to widespread frustration that "the revolution" has stalled. Many complain that although Mubarak and many hated figures under him have lost power, the key elements of his regime remain in the judiciary, the police and the civil service.

Doubts have also begun to grow about the council of ruling generals, which has faced protests and riots for what some see as its reluctance to prosecute police and former regime officials accused of complicity in the killing of nearly 900 protesters during the uprising.

In Cairo's Tahrir Square, hundreds awoke Saturday from their first night in makeshift tents.

"We removed the tip at the top but the rest of the building is still intact," said Abdel Hadi Abdel Rahim, a farmer in his 50s who camped out at the square, the center of the February uprising. "A public trial of Mubarak, his family and symbols of his rule. A real trial," read a banner in the square.

A woman wearing a headscarf spoke from a stage in square, holding a microphone. "Oh, Field Marshall Tantawi, we are the masters. The era of slavery is over," she said, referring to the head of the military council. Tantawi is a former Mubarak confidant.

Families of those killed in the uprising demanded justice for their loved ones.

Sayyed al-Marnawani, 31, said he will not leave the square until those who killed his younger brother on Jan. 25 are put on trial. "I don't want money. I don't anything but retribution," he said, carrying a placard with his brother's picture.

Organizers said hundreds also joined an open-ended protest in the city of Suez, located at the southern tip of Suez Canal. About 150 of the protesters have started a hunger strike and won't end it until top security officials suspected in the killing of protesters are arrested, said activist Ahmed Khafagi.

"We are giving them two days. After that, they will see escalation that starts with cutting main roads and include civil disobedience," he said.

"The people of Suez will not calm down until their rights are back," he added.

Later Saturday, several thousand protesters blocked a main road leading to Port Tawfiq, an important port overlooking the Suez Canal, two activists said.

Suez witnessed one of the most violent clashes with security forces in the early days of the uprising. Dozens of protesters were shot dead and hundreds injured at the time.

In his TV speech Saturday, Prime Minister Sharaf said Egypt's citizens are "the root of all sovereignty and source of all authority" _ a phrase unimaginable in Mubarak's days.

Sharaf promised to suspend all security officers accused of shooting protesters, restore a sense of security and press the courts to handle cases of corruption and police violence during the uprising. He said he was forming a body to communicate with the "youth of the revolution" and committees to address a variety of social issues that protesters have raised, including health services, housing and education.

That didn't go far enough for protesters camped out in Tahrir Square, who said they'd continue their sit-in.

"We're ready to take beatings and we won't leave," said Mahmoud Mitwali, 31. "How will we know that the officers from the old regime have been removed?"

Earlier this week, seven policemen were freed on bail during their trial for the killing of protesters in Suez. Their release set off two days of riots by angry families who accused the judiciary of corruption. Other former regime officials were acquitted on corruption charges this week, also raising the ire of many.

In the southern cities of Luxor and Assuit, several hundred protesters also set up protest tents.

"Until when are we going to wait?" said Amr el-Dassouki as he and others walked through Assuit to rally more people to join them.

Also Saturday, the military council named a new Egyptian minister for information, filling a post had remained vacant for nearly five months, since the last minister was sacked, tried and recently acquitted of corruption charges. The new minister, Osama Haikal, was chief-editor of opposition al-Wafd paper.