CAIRO: Egyptian pro-reform advocate and Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei is returning home Thursday to take part in the anti-government protests gripping his country.
A spokesman for the pro-reform leader, Abdel-Rahman Samir, said ElBaradei was expected to join protests planned for after Friday prayers across the country.
“He is coming back tonight (Thursday) from Vienna,” his brother Ali ElBaradei said.
In a message posted on his Twitter page, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he supported continued protests against President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-rule, as the country is rocked by the most serious demonstrations in three decades.
“We shall continue to exercise our right of peaceful demonstration and restore our freedom and dignity,” ElBaradei said. “Regime violence will backfire badly.”
ElBaradei, the former head of the UN nuclear watchdog, has emerged as a prime challenger to Mubarak’s regime since he first returned home last year. He has created a wave of support from reformists, but insists he would not run in this year’s presidential election unless restrictions on who is eligible to contest are lifted and far reaching political reforms are introduced.
ElBaradei’s homecoming Thursday could provide a much needed figure for protesters to rally around as they continue to press for change, but there have been persistent questions about the depth of his commitment to bringing change.
ElBaradei, according to his detractors, spends too much time away from Egypt and may be lacking a thorough understanding of life in Egypt because of the decades he has lived abroad, first as an Egyptian diplomat and later with the United Nations.
His absence in the run-up to legislative elections last November and during the anti-government protests sharply contrasts with the enthusiastic welcome he received at Cairo airport on his return in February after 20 years abroad.
Young activists, through social networking sites, have called for a mass rally in the Egyptian capital for Friday, after two days of protests by tens of thousands of people have led to clashes with security forces, leaving at least six people dead and many more wounded. Nearly 1,000 people are known to have been detained so far.