By Tamim Elyan
CAIRO: Despite a boycott by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, tens of thousands of protestors gathered Friday in Tahrir Square demanding fast public trials of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and other regime figures as well as drafting a new constitution before parliamentary elections slated for September.
Protestors chanted slogans of solidarity with the army and asked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to respond to their demands to complete the goals of the revolution.
“Despite the intense media campaign against the demonstrations today and accusing us of treason an atheism, the response has been more than great in all governorates,” said Zyad Al-Elemey, member of the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution.
Demands emblazoned on banners in the square included public and fast trials for “murderers of protesters” and corrupt figures; cleansing the judiciary; the dismissal of Deputy PM Yehia Al-Gamal and Minister of Local Development Mohsen Al-Nomany; as well as reforming the state media.
Some protesters also demanded sacking Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud and head of the Suez Canal Authority Mohamed Fadel. They further demanded a clearer mandate specifying the duties of the National Security arm of the Interior Ministry, which replaced the hated State Security apparatus.
“There are no consistent standards and the picture is unclear; the SCAF proved its failure in managing the country,” said Ahmed Okasha, an accountant.
“Why do they hold a National Dialogue after issuing laws and why try civilian protestors before military courts while ousted regime figures are tried in civil courts,” he added.
Some protesters held banners saying “the people want a new constitution that keeps article 2” (a reference to the article stating that Islam is the religion of the state and that principles of Islamic jurisprudence are one of the sources of legislation) and “no to rifts between the people and the army”.
“We feel that we are being manipulated and it is our right to criticize the political performance of the SCAF since it announced itself the ruler of the country,” said Eissa Ahmed, a government employee.
“The Brotherhood is the most organized group and they want to draft the new constitution; I respect the results of the referendum but youth parties didn’t have enough time to prepare for elections,” he added.
Some protestors criticized the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) for not participating in the protest, which has polarized Egyptian society for the past two weeks. They accused the MB of collaborating with SCAF for their own private agenda.
“There is an apparent agreement between the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood to manage things; if this is true then nothing has changed. I don’t want to be ruled by the opinion of a single political group, but by law,” said Ismail Al-Said, a house painter.
“We can’t have elections now amidst security turbulence in the streets, I am afraid to take my family and go to vote,” he added.
Others said that the SCAF subverted the results of the March 19 referendum on constitutional amendments when it issued a constitutional decree rather than applying the amendments to the 1971 constitution as we were made to believe.
Esraa Abdel Fatah, member of Democratic Front Party and a prominent political activist, said that there will be no sit-in and emphasized that protests don’t hinder productivity.
“Our demands are a new constitution, free and fair trials and the independence of the judiciary,” she said.
Protestors formed popular committees at the various entrances of the square to inspect participants.
“We aren’t against anyone, we want our rights … we want the SCAF to speed up the prosecution of the ousted regime figures,” she added.
She said that they will conform to the majority’s decision whether to continue protesting and hold a sit-in or end demonstrations at the predetermined time and continue protests on another day.
Political figures participating in the demonstration said that they will demand the overthrow of the government if it doesn’t apply the court ruling that sets LE 1,200 as a minimum wage. They also demanded setting up an independent tribunal to prosecute officials charged with corruption and to speed up trials.
“We want them to announce in public hearings the reasons for releasing regime figures and why they were arrested. This should be broadcast live on TV,” said Hassan Sorour, an accountant.
Abdel Fattah said that the protest was a historic opportunity for the police to come and protect the demonstrators instead of arresting them, but they didn’t come.
“There must be strict action against police officers who are refusing to work; they want either to return with the same old practices or not return at all,” said Maged Al-Sabagh, an accountant.
In El-Hussein district, about 1000 protesters gathered to express their support for the ruling SCAF and reject a suggestion to replace the military leaders with a civilian presidential council.
Judge Zakaria Abdel Aziz addresses protesters in Tahrir. (Daily News Egypt Photo/Hassan Ibrahim)
Around 1,000 protesters attended a pro-SCAF rally in El-Hussein. (Daily News Egypt Photo/Hassan Ibrahim)