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Egypt: Protesters demand changes, Mubarak detained

November 19, 2011
Sunday, April 17, 2011
By Tim Dobson
Protesters in Cairo.

In the early morning of April 9, new battles broke out on the streets of Cairo. Protesters fought back against mass repression carried out by the army, leading to two deaths.

In a fresh victory for people’s power in Egypt, protesters defeated the crackdown.

Protesters were demanding former dictator Hosni Mubarak and all corrupt officials from his regime be charged. Protesters remained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square late into the night before the army moved in.

Independent journalist Austin Mackrell reported from Cairo in an April 9 post on his Moon Under Water blog that the army had “blocked off all entrances to Tahrir Square, then attacked the crowd with Tazers and batons [and] arreste[d] many”.

Some of those arrested included soldiers who called for an end to corruption in the armed forces. The army also used live ammunition, something they had not done since the pro-democracy protests broke out in January.

Mackrell said: “Sometime around dawn, after fighting running battles around downtown Cairo through the night, the protesters retook the square, driving the soldiers out, trashing and burning army vehicles, then using them, along with the barbed wire and movable barriers abandoned by the army, to build barricades and cordon off the square.

“They then began putting up tents for the first time since their camp was destroyed on March 9.”

The occupation of the square ended on April 12 when the military successfully broke the occupation. Reuters reported on April 13: “Troops with machineguns rounded up several young men and pushed them into vans. Others hauled coils of barbed wire used by demonstrators and makeshift barriers erected during the protest onto military trucks.”

An April 13 article quoted one protester, who said: “The army arrested many today, but we will come back on Friday.”

Whatever good feelings there were among many Egyptians towards the supreme military council, elevated to power on the backs of the mass mobilisations that brought down Mubarak, are now beginning to disappear.

Mohamed Abbas, a youth activist, told the April 11 Los Angeles Times: “They’re playing a dirty game. It’s our revolution.

“Yes, the military helped us achieve it. But it’s ours and that spirit is coming back.

“The period of truce between us and the army is over.”

This is reflected in the fact that the military council, which once referred to youth protesters as “brave young Egyptians”, now refer to the same youth as agitators.

The LA Times said: “Demonstrators hung in effigy Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling military council, and chanted that he was no better than Mubarak.”

It has also intensified the split in forces that opposed Mubarak.

The response of the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution to the military crackdown was to suspend all dealing with the military council. AFP said on April 10 that, on the other hand, The Muslim Brotherhood said it “condemns any attempt to weaken (the military’s relationship with the people), and especially attempts to cause any split between the military and the people or to pit them against each other”.

A lot of the anger was directed at the military council over its unwillingness to prosecute corrupt officials of the Mubarak regime, or purge them from state institutions.

However, the return to mass mobilisations, and the prospect of larger ones, forced the military council and the government it appointed to appease the protesters.

The Associated Press said on April 13: “Egypt’s prosecutor general announced Wednesday the 15-day detention of former President Hosni Mubarak pending inquiries into accusations of corruption, abuse of authority and the killings of protesters during the uprising that ousted him from power.”

It also announced Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were to be arrested.

Mubarak’s sons are being held in the same prison as former prime minister Ahmed Nazif, former minister of the interior Habib El-Adly and business tycoon Ahmed Ezz — all arrested for crimes committed under the Mubarak regime.

Mubarak reportedly suffered a heart attack while facing questioning by prosecutors and was taken to hospital, where he is to be questioned.

On April 10, the television news network Al-Arabiya aired a statement by Mubarak in which he said “he and his family were the victims of ‘unjust campaigns and false claims that seek to ruin my reputation and challenge my integrity and my … military and political history’.”

Outside the hospital, protesters chanted: “We want our money. We want the thief to be tried.”

Protesters have also sought to push the government to take action against Israel over its fresh bombing of Gaza.

Thousands marched from Tahrir Square to the Israeli embassy on April 8. Ahram Online said: “The demonstration was joined by hundreds along the way, culminating in front of the Israeli embassy with protesters waving Palestinian and Egyptian flags, chanting slogans in solidarity with Palestine.

“It is the first time Egyptians have been able to demonstrate so close to the embassy. Before the 25 January Revolution it was effectively off-limits.”

The article said: “Demonstrators demanded that the Israeli flag be removed from on top of the building and raised a Palestinian flag atop an adjacent mosque.”

Protesters demanded the suspension of diplomatic relations with Israel and the halting of gas exports. Protesters chanted: “Egypt, Palestine, one revolution!”

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