Egypt: Archive 2

Last Updated – March 16, 2014

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Egypt: Hosni Mubarak to be quizzed over deaths

April 10, 2011

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been summoned by the state prosecutor for questioning over alleged corruption and killings of protesters. The announcement came shortly after Mr Mubarak made his first statement since he was ousted two months ago, denying accusations of corruption. The former leader said he had the right to defend his reputation and denied having any assets in foreign countries. Mr Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa have been summoned for questioning as well. The prosecutor-general said Mr Mubarak’s statement, broadcast on al-Arabiya TV, would not affect the inquiry. On Friday, Cairo’s Tahrir Square once again filled with demonstrators calling for Mr Mubarak and his family to be tried for corruption.

At least one person was killed and dozens were injured when troops moved in to clear the square. The injured suffered gunshot wounds but the army denied using live rounds. Protesters and anti-corruption campaigners have been pressing for an investigation into the Mubarak family’s assets, put at anywhere from $1bn to $70bn (£616m-£43bn). Mr Mubarak resigned on 11 February after 18 days of anti-government protests in which at least 365 people died. He fled to his villa in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh with his family.

Mr Mubarak, his sons and their wives have been banned from leaving the country and their assets have been frozen. Mr Mubarak made an audio recording of his speech on Saturday in the wake of the latest protests. It was broadcast by al-Arabiya TV on Sunday. “I have been in great pain because of the unjust campaigns and untrue allegations targeting myself and my family,” he said. “They aim to tarnish my reputation and discredit my integrity, my stance, my political and military history during which I worked hard for Egypt and its people in peace and war.”

Egyptian soldiers attack Tahrir Square protesters

April 9, 2011

Egypt’s deepening political crisis following the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak has taken a dangerous new turn after soldiers armed with clubs and rifles stormed protesters occupying Cairo’s Tahrir Square in a pre-dawn raid, killing at least two. The demonstrators, angry at the slow progress of reform since the country’s 18-day revolution earlier this year, had been demanding the trial of Mubarak, his son Gamal and close associates, and an immediate transition from military to civilian rule. The rally revealed the increasing impatience and mistrust that many Egyptians feel towards the military, which took over when Mubarak was forced out of office on 11 February. Some protesters accuse the top brass of protecting the former leader.

Eyewitnesses who spoke to the Observer – accounts confirmed by graphic video footage – described hundreds of troops charging into the square firing rubber bullets at 3am on Saturday to clear it. The assault appears to have been triggered by the decision of several dozen Egyptian soldiers on Friday to defy orders and join a protest in the square to call for the removal of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who is titular head of the country. “The people want the fall of the field marshal,” said protesters, in a variation on the chant that has become famous across the Middle East.

In the aftermath of the assault, as security forces retreated, witnesses described an army officer leading slogans against Tantawi, while anti-army graffiti appeared on barricades. Tamer el-Said, an Egyptian film-maker who was in the square, described what happened. “There was a huge demonstration that started at about 11 o’clock [on Friday]. There were some military officers who joined it who were dissatisfied with what the supreme military council was doing. There were between 15 and 20 of them. Obviously it was really dangerous for them so the other protesters decided that they would protect them from being arrested by the military police.

Hosni Mubarak breaks silence to deny corruption

April 10, 2011

Egypt’s deposed president Hosni Mubarak has denied he stole billions of dollars from his country’s coffers, in his first public address since he was removed from power by mass protests in February. Mubarak said he would defend himself from any accusations of corruption, after a fresh wave of protests in Cairo in part to demand he be put on trial. “I will uphold all my legal rights to defend my reputation as well as that of my family,” he said in a speech broadcast on an Arab satellite news channel. “I have been, and still am, pained by what I and my family are facing from fraudulent campaigns and unfounded allegations that seek to harm my reputation, my integrity and my military and political record.”

Mubarak said he held just one account with an Egyptian bank, and promised to co-operate with any investigation in order to prove that he did not have property or bank accounts abroad. He also denied similar accusations against his wealthy and once powerful sons, Alaa and Gamal. The al-Arabya news channel said the speech was recorded on Saturday in response to demonstrations in Cairo called in part to demand Egypt’s military rulers investigate the source of Mubarak’s wealth. The ruling military council, which took control of the country after Mubarak was toppled on 11 February, attempted to defuse the new wave of protests by announcing it would sack unpopular provincial governors appointed by the former president. But on Sunday more than 1,000 demonstrators rejected demands by the army to leave Tahrir Square, the heart of the uprising that brought down Mubarak.

Tahrir Square comes alive with protesters again

Protesters have packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square, piling pressure on the ruling military council to meet demands including the prosecution of Hosni Mubarak in one of the biggest demonstrations since he was ousted. By early afternoon the protest had swollen to more than 100,000. Thousands waved red, white and black Egyptian flags in scenes reminiscent of the height of the protests that toppled Mubarak and helped ignite revolts in other Arab countries. “Oh field marshal, we’ve been very patient!” chanted some of the protesters, gathered in the square that was the hub of protests that toppled Mubarak from the presidency and left the army, led by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, in charge.

“Tantawi, Tantawi get your act together or do you want a pool of blood?” chanted some of the protesters. The military has enjoyed broad support since it took control of the country on 11 February but frustrations have grown over the pace of reform. Attention is now focused on the perceived tardiness of legal steps against Mubarak and his entourage. Mubarak and his family have been living in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh since he left Cairo on 11 February. The public prosecutor, who has filed charges against some but not all of the Mubarak-era officials, was also the focus of anger during a demonstration which one activist group declared “The Friday of Purification and Accountability”.

A military helicopter hovered over the city centre as protesters poured into the square after Friday prayers to support demands including the removal of remaining Mubarak-era officials, such as the powerful provincial governors. Banners included economic demands, such as the imposition of minimum and maximum wages. “The revolution is continuing until democracy is achieved,” read one banner. “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 realised,” said Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science and a prominent figure in the reform movement.

Street action remained “the real guarantee to the success of the revolution,” a coalition of youth activists said in a statement. “There has to be continued pressure for the quick and effective realisation 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 defence 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. At one point eight young men in military uniform appeared on stage, calling for Tantawi’s removal. It was not possible to verify whether they were serving in the military.

Egypt women protesters forced to take ‘virginity tests’

March 24, 2011

A leading rights group says the Egyptian army arrested, tortured and forced women to take “virginity tests” during protests earlier this month. Amnesty International is calling on the authorities in Cairo to investigate. It says at least 18 female protesters were arrested after army officers cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March. It says they were then beaten, given electric shocks and strip searched. The army denies the allegations. A 20-year-old woman, Salwa Hosseini, told Amnesty she was forced to take off all her clothes by a female prison guard in a room with open doors and a window.

She said that male soldiers looked in and took photographs of her while she was naked. The demonstrator said a man in a white coat later carried out a ‘virginity check’ on her and she was threatened with prostitution charges. “Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women,” a spokesperson for Amnesty International said in a statement. “Women and girls must be able to express their views on the future of Egypt without being detained, tortured, or subjected to profoundly degrading and discriminatory treatment.”

Egypt’s freedom is far from won

March 18, 2011

Ragy el-Kashef’s torture lasted six hours. He was beaten, whipped and electrically stunned while lying face down on the pavement. The setting was the grounds of the Egyptian Museum, downtown Cairo’s terracotta centrepiece that attracts millions of tourists a year to its dusty, neglected display cabinets. The contrast between the building’s iconic status and the shabby, dilapidated air within makes it a darkly appropriate stage for human rights crimes: a reminder of the chasm between Egypt’s millennia of cultural achievement and its consequent stagnation under Hosni Mubarak; a bricks and mortar embodiment of the colossal gap between the PR-sanitised face a dictator can show to the world and the brutal security apparatus on which his power can rest at home. But Ragy’s torture was carried out after Mubarak’s departure, a stone’s throw from the square where Egyptians came together to reimagine something different and dream up a new society. His torturers were the footsoldiers of those tasked with overseeing the country’s “transition” to democracy; they took the chants of the revolution and twisted them into words of abuse, leaving lattice-webs of bloody welts on Egyptian backsides before holding 10-minute kangaroo court hearings in secret to find their captives guilty.

As the international media shifted its attention to Libya, Egypt’s ongoing revolution faded into the background and found itself incorporated into fresh, unthreatening narratives deployed by western politicians to enable them to talk admiringly of “people struggling for universal rights” while giving a green light for those same universal rights to be scythed down in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Plastic-wrapped as victorious, peaceful and – most importantly of all – over, the spirit of Tahrir has been pulped into the equivalent of resistance muzak, playing harmlessly and blandly in the hotel elevator while the real struggles play out elsewhere. But in reality the Egyptian struggle continues to rage apace, and in the shadows where it has been deposited by the world’s press, there have been some disturbing developments. The past fortnight has seen fresh outbreaks of sectarian violence, attacks on an International Women’s Day march, the reappearance of the baltagiyya (regime-backed thugs) on the streets of the capital, the forceful eviction of the remaining protesters in Tahrir and a hardened stance by the authorities towards workers striking to demand their basic economic rights.

Popular feeling among those that led the occupation of the square is that a counter-revolution is under way, a sentiment echoed by the prime minister himself. One friend emailed me despondently last week after watching bystanders laugh with soldiers and sweep dirt from the square following the vicious removal of demonstrators. “The revolution has failed,” he wrote. The latest manifestation of this showdown between two Egypts, old and new, is Saturday’s referendum, in which millions of Egyptians will go to the polls to endorse or reject a package of constitutional amendments drawn up by a committee of legal experts, backed by the interim government. If they pass, we’ll see national elections taking place within six months. Although most of the amendments appear positive in isolation, critics say they are designed to legalise dictatorship and rush the country towards a hurried poll from which only conservative forces like the Muslim Brotherhood and the remnants of Mubarak’s NDP party can emerge victorious. Campaigning for the referendum has ranged an unlikely alliance of the Brotherhood, Salafists, the NDP and the army top brass – all pushing for a yes vote – against an equally unlikely alliance of almost everybody else calling for no, from establishment figures such as Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa to a wide range of youth coalitions, as well as many prominent legal experts.

Egypt referendum strongly backs constitution changes

March 20, 2011

Egyptians have strongly backed constitutional changes that will allow the country to move quickly on to elections. Official results show that 77% of voters in Saturday’s referendum backed the changes. Under former President Hosni Mubarak, elections were stage-managed affairs with pre-determined results and turnout was very low. A parliamentary vote may now take place as early as September. Mohammed Ahmed Attiyah, the head of the supreme judicial committee who supervised the vote, said 18.5 million people who voted supported the changes. Turnout was 41.2 % of the 45 million eligible voters.

The changes include:

• Reducing presidential terms from six years to four years and limiting the president to two terms

• Obliging the president to choose a deputy within 30 days of election

• Installing new criteria for presidential candidates, including a rule that they must be over 40 years old and not married to a non-Egyptian

The country’s two main political groups, Mr Mubarak’s National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, backed the proposals. But pro-democracy activists said the changes did not go far enough and wanted the constitution to be entirely rewritten before elections could be held. Activists have argued that the established parties stand to gain the most from holding an election quickly. For many people Saturday was the first time they had ever voted.

Large turnout for Egypt’s constitutional referendum

March 19, 2011

Millions of Egyptians have voted in a referendum on constitutional reforms, a month after a popular uprising swept President Hosni Mubarak from power. If passed, it would allow Egypt to hold fresh elections within six months. Initial results are expected on Sunday. A BBC correspondent in Cairo says that for most Egyptians, this was the first genuinely free vote in their lives. The referendum was marred by an attack on the Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition figure, Mohamed ElBaradei. A crowd of angry youths pushed and threw rocks at the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency as he tried to vote in Cairo. “I went to vote with my family and I was attacked by organised thugs,” Mr ElBaradei wrote on Twitter. “Top figures of Mubarak’s regime still at large and undermining the revolution.”

Mr ElBaradei was unable to vote at the polling station and eventually cast his ballot elsewhere, the Reuters news agency reported. Constitutional overhaul At most polling stations, however, the atmosphere was cheerful. The BBC’s Jonathan Head in Cairo says the referendum produced something most Egyptians had never seen before – people queuing patiently for hours in lines that ran around the block to cast their ballots. Under former President Mubarak, elections were stage-managed affairs with pre-determined results and turn out was very low, our correspondent says. For many people it was the first time they had ever voted, he adds. If approved, the constitutional changes would pave the way for Egypt to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections within six months.

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Decision to abolish the state security apparatus in all the governorates of Egypt (Arabic)

For more pictures click on any of the images below.

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Hazem Ramzy

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Egyptian State Security Documents (Arabic Language only)

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State Security HQ overrun in Cairo

March 5, 2011

CAIRO – Hundreds of protesters stormed the headquarters of Egypt’s widely feared State Security Investigations agency in Cairo on Saturday and began sifting through thousands of potentially inflammatory documents, marking another step toward dismantling the administration of ousted President Hosni Mubarak. State Security was responsible for suppressing domestic political dissent, as well as for internal counterterrorism, and had a reputation for torturing detainees. The unearthed documents could provide information for cases against senior members of Mubarak’s government, from the former president on down, and could prove explosive if publicized, analysts said. “This could be bigger than Mubarak’s fall in terms of the effect it could have on the country,” said Elijah Zarwan, a Cairo-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.

State Security also collaborated with the United States on counterterrorism and was likely to have kept files on the rendition program under which terrorism suspects from around the world were relocated to Egypt by U.S. agents, Zarwan said. But there were indications that some of the most sensitive documents might have been destroyed or removed, and most of the rest were taken away by prosecutors, witnesses said. The evening attack on the facility in the Cairo suburb of Nasr City was the culmination of a wave of similar assaults over the previous 24 hours on State Security offices across the country, apparently fueled by rumors that officials had begun burning or shredding documents. Protesters who began gathering outside the Cairo headquarters in the afternoon found their way in through a side entrance after they saw four trucks being loaded with garbage bags that appeared to be stuffed with shredded paper, witnesses said.

Once inside, they found more shredded documents and empty rooms, but also piles of files and computer hard drives, which they hauled outside and protected with a human chain. Some documents, including one on a militant attack on a Christian church in January and another ordering phone taps on people who called in to political talk shows, were posted on Twitter before the prosecutors arrived and began removing the files under army supervision. “There were files on everything, like schools and hospitals, and not just political dissenters but government officials as well,” said a protester who gave his name as Abu Osama and said he had spent 20 years in State Security prisons for fighting with a militant group in Afghanistan. “It’s like the first day of the revolution all over again,” he said. Witnesses also said they found implements used for torture, including electric shock devices, and roamed through three levels of underground cells. Though no prisoners were found, protesters said they saw indications, such as unspoiled rice and other food, that some might have been occupying cells a few hours earlier.

Egypt’s new prime minister tells protesters he is ‘of the people’ and will resign if he fails

March 4, 2011

Egypt’s new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, has told protesters at Cairo’s Tahrir Square that he is ‘of the people’ and would resign if he failed to meet their demands. Sharaf, who was Egypt’s former transportation minister, was speaking as he was sworn in to office on Friday following the resignation of Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister appointed by Hosni Mubarak in the dying days of his rule. The 52-year-old, who joined protests in Tahrir Square in February to demand political and economic change, was greeted by cheers as he made his way through the crowd. According to Times Of India, he told supporters: ‘I am here because I draw my legitimacy from you.

‘I will exert all my effort to respond to your demands.’ ‘I beg you, you did something great and together we will do more,’ Sharaf added. ‘I have a heavy task and it will need patience.’ Sharaf’s appearance at the protests last month won him fans and his speech on Friday – which ended with him being carried out of the square on the shoulders of supporters – was largely well-received. However some have seen his appointment as prime minister as a pre-emptive move by Egypt’s military government to silence protesters who have vowed to remain vocal until their demands are met. These include dismantling of the state security apparatus, the release of political prisoners and for former members of the regime to be prosecuted. President Mubarak stood down on February 11, following 18 days of protests. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power after Mubarak’s resignation, said it has scheduled a referendum on constitutional changes for March 19. These changes will include limiting the length of presidential terms, easing restrictions on presidential hopefuls and bolstering judicial supervision of elections. Egyptians will also vote on removing the president’s right to order military trials for civilians.

Hundreds march on State Security building in Egypt

March 4, 2011

CAIRO—Hundreds of Egyptian protesters attempted to storm a building belonging to the internal security service in Alexandria on Friday in an outpouring of anger at the agency blamed for some of the worst human rights violations during ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s rule. Officers inside the building opened fire on the crowd, injuring three demonstrators, according to a medic and one of the protesters. Tensions remain high even as Egypt’s military, which took control of the country after Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11, takes steps to meet the protesters’ demands before a promised return to civilian rule. One of the protesters’ key remaining demands is for the dismantling of Egypt’s State Security Agency. Friday, crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square celebrated the military’s choice of a new prime minister to replace the one Mubarak had appointed. The new premier, Essam Sharaf, was carried on the shoulders of demonstrators to a podium in the square from which he promised the estimated 10,000 people gathered there that he would do his best to meet their demands. In Alexandria, where some of the uprising’s worst violence occurred, around 1,000 protesters encircled the State Security Agency building after nightfall and demanded that the officers inside come out or they would storm the building. Several fire bombs were hurled and four police cars were set ablaze, though one protester insisted they were not to blame and only threw rocks.

Shots were fired at the crowd and three people were injured, said an ambulance medic who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information to journalists. “It was coming from inside the building,” said protester Mahinour el-Masri. She said a friend was among the wounded and had been hit by gunfire in the stomach. Protesters then stormed into the building and scuffled with riot police inside before military forces intervened and took control of the building. El-Masri said they found shredded documents and files inside. The Interior Ministry denied officers fired on protesters and accused the crowds that entered the building of seizing weapons and holding guards hostage. A smaller crowd also marched toward a State Security building in Cairo but was stopped by soldiers from getting close. Egypt’s internal security services and police forces, which were given a free hand by emergency laws under Mubarak to suppress dissent, are some of the most powerful symbols of his regime. In particular, the case of a 28-year-old Alexandria businessman allegedly beaten to death by two policemen in June set off months of small-scale protests and became a rallying point for a campaign against brutality by the police and security services.

A Facebook page started in memory of the man, Khaled Said, was used to send out the first call for large-scale anti-government protests on Feb. 25. Since Mubarak’s ouster, Egypt’s military rulers have been trying to meet quell the anger. It announced Friday that a referendum on constitutional changes to allow for competitive parliamentary and presidential elections will be held on March 19. A day earlier, the army picked Sharaf to become prime minister and form a new Cabinet. He replaces Ahmed Shafiq, the last premier to be named by Mubarak. Shafiq’s resignation was among the major opposition demands. A former transport minister, Sharaf endeared himself to the protesters when he joined the demonstrations that forced Mubarak to resign. “I draw will and determination from here,” Sharaf told the crowd in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday. “I will do my utmost to realize your demands,” he said, pledging to step down if he fails. Sharaf, a U.S.-educated civil engineer, served in the Cabinet for 18 months between 2004 and 2005. His government will serve in a caretaker capacity until elections are held. Besides Shafiq’s resignation, the revolt’s leaders want Mubarak’s National Democratic Party dissolved. Other demands include the prosecution of security officials behind the deaths of protesters and the release of political prisoners.

“I am here because I get my legitimacy from you,” Sharaf, in a gray business suit but no tie, told the demonstrators. He called on the protesters to turn their attention to “rebuilding Egypt.” “I pray to God that I see an Egypt where free opinions are voiced outside (prison) cells and security agencies are in the service of the nation.” Sharaf is faced with the daunting task of restoring a sense of normalcy in the country, where police forces have largely disappeared from the streets and there is a growing sense of insecurity. The stock market has been closed for over a month, and since Mubarak left there have been countless labor and other strikes. Eleven universities were set to reopen on Saturday. The constitutional changes to be voted on would open presidential elections to competition and impose a two-term limit on future presidents—a dramatic shift from a system that allowed Mubarak to rule for three decades. The proposals address a number of the demands of the reform movement. But many say the changes don’t go far enough and debate is still under way over which election should come first. Since it took charge of managing Egypt’s affairs, the military has promised to hand power to a new government and elected president within six months. It disbanded both houses of parliament and promised to repeal the emergency laws, though only when conditions permit.

Revoltology!

Egypt’s Revolution: Brave Protesters’ Stand Against State Security

March 4, 2011

The revolution is still rocking. Protesters across Egypt accomplished the second demand on their last by toppling Shafik’s govt. They soon moved to the third one: Down with State Security. The main theme in chants in today’s protests were asking for the State Security to be dissolved. But, Alexandria revolutionaries took the initiative and decided not to only ask for it, they have to do it by themselves as true revolutionaries do! A huge protest started moving to stage a sit-in in front in the State Security building in Fara’in area but the State Security thugs acted very violently. They opened live ammo and tear gas against protesters which lead to serious injuries of 3 protesters. The protesters decided then that they will not leave. Reports say that the military stood without any interventions at first. But, after live ammo has been used, the army forces decided to take over. Which is good, the protesters decided that this is not enough. So, hundreds of protesters storm into the State Security building with army soldiers searching for State Security officers who have been shooting them.

New Egyptian prime minister pledges democratic change

Egypt’s new Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, has pledged to meet the demands for democratic change sought by protesters, and to resign if he fails. He made the comments in an address before thousands gathered at Cairo’s Tahrir Square before Friday prayers. The former transport minister told the crowds that he drew his “will and determination” from the people. Mr Sharaf replaced Ahmed Shafiq, who was appointed in the dying days of the regime of Hosni Mubarak. He was named as head of the transitional caretaker government by the army on Thursday. On Friday, it was announced that a referendum on constitutional reform in the country would be held on 19 March. Elections for parliament and to choose a new president are scheduled within six months. “I will do my utmost to realise your demands,” Mr Sharaf said before a crowd of an estimated 10,000 people in the square that was at the centre of protests that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak last month.

“I am here because I get my legitimacy from you,” he said, calling on the protesters to turn their attention to “rebuilding Egypt”. He was carried to and from the podium where he made his speech on the shoulders of protesters. But he declined the crowd’s pleas to take the oath of office in front of them and left the square to chants of “Take the oath, take the oath, take the oath”. The protesters had planned Friday’s rally to call for the resignation of Mr Shafiq but went ahead with the gathering as a celebration of the appointment of Mr Sharaf. A US-educated civil engineer, Mr Sharaf opposed Mr Mubarak’s government after stepping down from the cabinet five years ago. He actively supported the revolution, joining the street protests in the capital. The military council, which has been running the country since Mr Mubarak stepped down on 11 February, has ordered the government to run the country’s affairs for six months “or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections”. Mr Mubarak is believed to be living in his villa in Sharm el-Sheikh, but is in poor health, and has not been seen or heard of publicly since stepping down.

Egypt’s Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq resigns

March 3, 2011

Egypt’s Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq has resigned, the country’s ruling military council has announced in a statement. A former transport minister, Essam Sharaf, has been asked to form a new government, the statement added. Mr Shafiq was appointed days before President Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office following days of anti-government protests. Protesters saw Mr Shafiq as too closely associated to Mr Mubarak’s rule, observers say. Mr Shafiq was appointed by Mr Mubarak just days before he stepped down on 11 February after several weeks of popular protests against his rule. “The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces decided to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and appointed Essam Sharaf to form the new government,” the army said in a statement on its Facebook page. It had been one of the protesters’ key demands that Mr Shafiq and other top ministers appointed at the end of the Mubarak rule step down. On Monday, Egypt issued a travel ban on the ousted president and his family.

Egypt corruption probe: Ex-minister, state TV boss held

Febraury 24, 2011

Egyptian police have detained the former information minister and state broadcasting chief as part of an anti-corruption probe following the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. The move comes a day after three other officials appeared in court on charges of money laundering and abuse of power. Meanwhile, Egypt’s new cabinet met for the first time, amid criticism that key Mubarak-era figures were not replaced. Opposition groups plan to rally on Friday to call for a new cabinet. They also want an end to the emergency law and for political prisoners to be freed. Last Friday, millions of Egyptians returned to Tahrir Square to celebrate the victory of their revolution, which led to the resignation of Mr Mubarak on 11 February after 18 days of street protests.  They have vowed to keep up the pressure until their demands are met.

On Thursday, ex-information minister Anas al-Fikki and former state radio and television chief Osama al-Sheikh were arrested as part of a probe into alleged graft. Mr Fikki is the fourth member of Mubarak’s former government to be detained, after the former ministers of interior Habib al-Adly, tourism Zuhair Garana, and housing Ahmed al-Maghrabi. On Wednesday, Mr Garana and Mr Maghrabi – along with steel tycoon and prominent ruling NDP party leader Ahmed Ezz – appeared in Cairo Criminal Court to face corruption charges. The men wore white prison uniforms and sat in a metal cage. An angry crowd of hundreds taunted them as they arrived in court, screaming “thieves” and “you robbed our money”, the AFP news agency reported. Atef Obeid, Egypt’s prime minister from 1999-2004, and former culture minister Farouk Hosni have been banned from leaving the country pending further inquiries, along with several businessmen close to Mr Mubarak’s regime.

Egypt’s top prosecutor earlier requested the freezing of the foreign assets of Hosni Mubarak himself, as well as his wife, his two sons and two daughters-in-law. All the officials say they are innocent. The crackdown comes as Egypt’s new cabinet set to work, with security high on the agenda. The 10-member cabinet was sworn in by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt’s military supreme council which is running the country until presidential and parliamentary elections later this year. Despite the inclusion of opposition figures for the first time, the key portfolios of defence, interior, foreign affairs, and justice were unchanged – sparking objections from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood and other groups. In the run-up to elections, a committee is also working to amend the constitution in line with the protesters’ demands. Their work is expected to take about a month, an army source said. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have prompted a wave of popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, with Libya’s Col Muammar Gaddafi fighting off the biggest challenge to his rule in over four decades.

February 11, 2011

Hosni Mubarak resigns – and Egypt celebrates a new dawn

When it finally came, the end was swift. After 18 days of mass protest, it took just over 30 seconds for Egypt’s vice-president, Omar Suleiman, to announce that President Hosni Mubarak was standing down and handing power to the military. “In the name of Allah the most gracious the most merciful,” Suleiman read. “My fellow citizens, in the difficult circumstances our country is experiencing, President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak has decided to give up the office of the president of the republic and instructed the supreme council of the armed forces to manage the affairs of the country. May God guide our steps.” Moments later a deafening roar swept central Cairo. Protesters fell to their knees and prayed, wept and chanted. Hundreds of thousands of people packed into Tahrir Square, the centre of the demonstrations, waving flags, holding up hastily written signs declaring victory, and embracing soldiers. “We have brought down the regime, we have brought down the regime,” chanted the crowd. Mohammed Abdul Ghedi, a lifeguard who had come from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, to which the ex-president and his family flew yesterday, held up a sign in English saying: “Mubarak you are nothing, you are heartless, without mind, just youkel, worthless, fuck off.” “This is my first day here, and he is gone. Mubarak is a liar. When he promised to leave in three or six months we don’t believe him. We only believe him when he is gone,” he said. “Now Egyptians are free. All of Egypt is liberated. Now we will choose our leaders, and if we don’t like them, they will go.”

Another protester, Karim Medhat Ennarah, said with tears in his eyes: “For 18 days we have withstood teargas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, Molotov cocktails, thugs on horseback, the scepticism and fear of our loved ones, and the worst sort of ambivalence from an international community that claims to care about democracy. “But we held our ground. We did it.” There were similar celebrations from Alexandria to Suez, among protesters who were often too young to have known any other leader than Mubarak. While the demonstrators were giving little immediate thought to what military rule might mean, some of the protest organisers said the success of the street turnouts meant that any future administration would be held to account. For now, Egypt will be governed by a military council led by the defence minister, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who is not a known reformer. But the military council said it would not act as a substitute for a “legitimate” government. A spokesman said on TV that the armed forces would be announcing steps and arrangements to introduce the changes Egyptians wanted. He also praised Mubarak for his contribution to the country. Mohamed ElBaradei, who on Thursday called for a military takeover, described the change as the liberation of the Egyptian people. “We have a lot of daunting tasks ahead of us. Our priority to make sure the country is restored; socially cohesive, economically vibrant, politically democratic,” he said. “My message to the Egyptian people is, you have gained your liberty, the right to catch up with the rest of the world. Make the best use of it.”

US president Barack Obama, who had supported Mubarak remaining in power until a stable transitional administration was in place, called on the new military leaders to take concrete steps towards democratic change. “The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people. That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free,” he said. The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, has been in regular contact with Tantawi and spoke to him hours before the military takeover. In Britain, David Cameron called on the new administration to ensure a move to civilian and democratic rule. The EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, said: “It is important now that the dialogue is accelerated leading to a broad-based government which will respect the aspirations of, and deliver stability for, the Egyptian people.” Switzerland immediately froze the assets of the former president. Mubarak’s resignation came after a turbulent 24 hours in which a televised address to the nation that was intended to defuse the crisis only further infuriated the protesters and prompted the largest demonstrations to date. On Thursday evening, after a day in which members of the president’s party and cabinet said they expected him to resign, Mubarak announced that he was handing his powers to Suleiman. That in effect left Mubarak as president in name only, a move he appears to have believed would be enough to satisfy the protesters’ demands for his resignation.

But on the streets of Cairo the announcement was interpreted as the regime’s leaders shuffling authority among themselves, and the crisis deepened. The army appears to have expected more from him, possibly including his complete resignation or the transfer of powers to the military, not Suleiman. Clearly alarmed at the popular reaction, it sought to reassure the protesters with a declaration that the promise of free elections would be fulfilled. But that too failed to ease the demonstrations, as many in the opposition saw the statement as backing the status quo, although it could also be read as offering an assurance to Egyptians that the military was prepared to ensure Mubarak stood by his commitments. As the protests built up during the day, a determined crowd marched on the state television building, a target of particular ire because of its stream of propaganda and false accusations against the protesters. The station all but went off air as it was obliged to cancel live programmes because it could not get guests into the building. Several hours later the station was conducting interviews again – with protesters and victims of the regime. The protesters fanned out to other parts of the city and began a march on Mubarak’s presidential palace. Meanwhile, the military’s supreme council held an emergency session to decide how to clearly confront the crisis, and concluded that Mubarak had to go once and for all. By lunchtime he was on a plane with his family to Sharm el-Sheikh, where he also has a palace which he periodically lends to Tony Blair. A few hours later came the announcement that had Egypt celebrating in to the night.

February 11, 2011

Egypt’s Mubarak resigns as leader

Hosni Mubarak has stepped down as president of Egypt, after weeks of protest in Cairo and other cities. The news was greeted with a huge outburst of joy and celebration by thousands in Cairo’s Tahrir Square – the heart of the demonstrations. Mr Mubarak ruled for 30 years, suppressing dissent and protest, and jailing opponents. US President Barack Obama said that Egypt must now move to civilian and democratic rule. This was not the end but the beginning and there were difficult days ahead, the US president added, but he was confident the people could find the answers. “The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard,” Mr Obama said. “Egypt will never be the same again.” “They have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.”  Announcing Mr Mubarak’s resignation, Vice-President Omar Suleiman said the president had handed power to the army. Mr Suleiman said on state TV that the high command of the armed forces had taken over.

“In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country,” he said.  “May God help everybody.” Later an army officer read out a statement paying tribute to Mr Mubarak for “what he has given” to Egypt but acknowledging popular power. “There is no legitimacy other than that of the people,” the statement said. The military high command is headed by Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks described Field Marshal Tantawi as “aged and change-resistant”, but committed to avoiding another war with Israel. Mr Mubarak has already left Cairo and is in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh where he has a residence, officials say. In Cairo, thousands of people gathered outside the presidential palace, in Tahrir Square and at state TV.  They came out in anger following an address by Mr Mubarak on Thursday. He had been expected to announce his resignation but stopped short of stepping down, instead transferring most powers to Mr Suleiman.

“The people have brought down the regime,” they chanted in reaction to the news of his eventual resignation less than 24 hours later. Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said: “This is the greatest day of my life.” “You cannot comprehend the amount of joy and happiness of every Egyptian at the restoration of our humanity and our freedom.” The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s banned Islamist opposition movement, paid tribute to the army for keeping its promises. “I salute the Egyptian people and the martyrs. This is the day of victory for the Egyptian people. The main goal of the revolution has been achieved,” said the Brotherhood’s former parliamentary leader, Mohamed el-Katatni. Ayman Nour, Mr Mubarak’s rival for the presidency in 2005, described it as the greatest day in Egypt’s history. “This nation has been born again. These people have been born again, and this is a new Egypt,” he told al-Jazeera TV. Meanwhile Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, announced that he would leave his post as secretary general of the Arab League “within weeks”, the Egyptian news agency Mena reported. He hinted that he might stand for president.  The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo said the announcement caught everyone by surprise: all over the city, drivers honked their horns and people fired guns into the air. But the army takeover looks very much like a military coup, our correspondent adds. The constitution has been breached, he says, because officially it should be the speaker of parliament who takes over, not the army leadership.

February 11, 2011

Analysts: Mubarak’s resignation is only the beginning

(CNN) — Amid the jubilant celebrations over Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation Friday, analysts cautioned that the protest movement’s biggest challenges lie in the days ahead as the euphoria of revolution dies down and the reality of rebuilding a country sets in. “Egypt’s problems began before Mubarak, and they will not end with his ouster,” Kenneth Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution,wrote in a commentary piece for CNN.com. “Instead, they are the product of a corrupt, stagnant and oppressive system which Mubarak helped to build but now extends beyond his own person.” World leaders have been pushing for an orderly transition since the protest movement first gained momentum late last month. The calls grew only louder Friday after Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman made a somber one-minute announcement on state television announcing Mubarak’s resignation and the appointment of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces to “run the affairs of the country.” Among other things, Egyptian authorities need to set about “protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free,” U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday.

In the immediate future, the military — largely respected by Egyptians — will have to grapple with guiding the country of more than 80 million people through the transition amid massive problems of unemployment and considerable economic underdevelopment, said CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman, who is based in Cairo. “All of that is going to pose quite a challenge,” Wedeman said. “They’re going to be learning along with the people of Egypt how to make a delicate transformation from a dictatorship to what everyone hopes is a democracy.” One fear is that the military will be loath to give up power in favor of a democratic system. “Egypt has a long history of military rule,” said Daniel Byman, a senior fellow on foreign policy for Brookings’ Saban Center. “No one will be shocked if this military is not eager to pass things on to the Egyptian people.” But Byman also pointed out the solid reputation the military has among Egyptians. Throughout the uprising, the military both responded to the protesters and defended Mubarak’s regime, and many demonstrators had been calling for the army to take over as interim caretaker. “The hope is that the military feels that its corporate image and pride will be destroyed if it created another dictatorship,” Byman said. One of the first things the military can do to show it has the interests of Egyptians in mind is lift the state of emergency — used by Mubarak throughout his tenure as president to rule with an iron hand — immediately, said Marco Vicenzino of the Global Strategy Project.

The military said Friday that it would be lifted, but only when conditions allowed. Byman noted that while tanks are in the street and the emergency law is still in place, Egypt is still essentially operating as a police state — one of the biggest objections of the nearly 3-week-old protest. “The police are not there in the same repressive way, but that said, you have tanks in the street and right now there’s no organized alternative,” he said. “The question is, are there credible signs they (the military) are on a path that there’s no withdrawing from.” To help set that path, free and fair elections will be held in the next six to seven months, said Amre Moussa, Arab League secretary-general, who joined demonstrators in calling for Mubarak’s ouster, but said he hasn’t decided if he’ll run to succeed him. Before those elections can be held, however, dramatic changes are needed as to who gets on the ballot, how political parties are formed and how Egyptians register to vote, said Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, noting significant restrictions placed on the political process under Mubarak’s regime. “This is all totally new for Egypt,” he said. Analysts agree that the future of Egypt could go in many different directions. “When all the institutions are corrupt, who do you hand things off to?” Byman asked, later adding that “one very tricky point is that the Egyptian people have been unified on one thing: Mubarak must go. But are they unified as to what Egypt will look like in the coming years? You need some unity and some vision.”

Other question marks that remain are the future of Suleiman, a senior State Department official said Friday, and the role the Muslim Brotherhood may play in the new Egyptian government. The Brotherhood is the largest and most organized opposition group in Egypt and has a religious and political agenda. Some fear that the organization could hijack the pro-democracy movement. A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood told CNN’s John King that his group trusts Egypt’s new military leadership to transition to a free and open democracy. Essam El-Erian said his organization, which has vowed not to field a presidential candidate, expects to be represented in a new parliament, but does not expect to win a majority of seats. Another big obstacle will be reforming the country’s constitution in Mubarak’s wake. Mubarak’s imposition of military rule Friday broke with the country’s 1971 constitution. The constitution allows for only two scenarios for a president to relinquish power. The first stipulates that if the president has to step aside temporarily, the vice president steps into the top role. That is what the regime briefly orchestrated Thursday. The constitution states further that, if the office of the president is vacated or the president becomes permanently disabled, the parliamentary speaker is to assume the role until new elections can be held. Those elections, in turn, must occur within 60 days. In opting for a third way, which put all power in the hands of the military, the regime in effect rendered the constitution inoperable.

Moussa said Friday that Egypt needs to have a “modern constitution” — one that promises tolerance in light of what he called a “renewed, positive relationship (across) all sections of Egyptian society.” However, Pollack and others noted Friday, pillars of the Mubarak regime still remain in place, including the military forces serving as interim caretakers and the legislative parliament. However, a high-ranking Egyptian military official said that discussions were under way in the military Supreme Council about dismissing Mubarak’s government and parliament and the timing for elections. Vicenzino said the military commission needs to begin a process of inclusiveness by reaching out to members of civil society to participate in the new political process. The private sector, big industry, labor unions who represent millions of workers, must all be included in discussions going forward, Vicenzino said. Still, Johns Hopkins’ Muravchik cautioned that “one election does not make a democracy.” “There are a wealth of problems in Egypt and democracy is not a silver bullet that will cure them all.” And though the bubble of three weeks of tension burst Friday, the pressure could begin anew Saturday as some protesters said they would keep up the demonstration with more demands, including putting Mubarak on trial.

Mubarak refuses to leave

@ashrafkhalil – February 10, 2011 @ 21:51

Another chant, “Bukra Al Asr, Nirooh 3al Qasr”..Tomorrow afternoon, we march to the Palace

@linuxawy In #Alex, army is installing loud speakers in North area military command center, seems we will have an announcement #jan25

February 10, 2011

Egypt’s Mubarak transfers power to vice president

Associated Press= CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced he has handed his powers over to his vice president but he refused to step down outright or leave the country, retaining his title of president and ensuring regime control over the reform process. Stunned protesters in central Cairo who demand his ouster waved their shoes in contempt and shouted, “Leave, leave, leave.” The crowd in Tahrir Square had swollen to several hundred thousand in expectation that Mubarak would announce is resignation in the nighttime address to the nation. Instead, they watched in silence, slapping their foreheads in anger and disbelief. Some broke into tears. After he finished, they broke out into chants for him to go. Immediately after Mubarak’s speech, Vice President Omar Suleiman called on the protesters to “go home” and asked Egyptians to “unite and look to the future.”

The pair of addresses followed a series of dramatic events Thursday evening that had raised expectations Mubarak was about to announce his resignation. In a surprise step, the military announced on state TV that its Supreme Council was in permanent session in scenes that suggested the armed forces were taking control, perhaps to ensure Mubarak goes. The top general for the Cairo area told protesters in the square that “all their demands” would be satisfied, and the protesters lifted him on their shoulders, believing that meant Mubarak’s ouster. Instead, Mubarak went on the air several hours later, delivering a firm 15-minute address that suggested little has changed. Suleiman was already leading the regime’s efforts to deal with the crisis, but the announcement gives him official authorities.

“I saw fit to delegate the authorities of the president to the vice president, as dictated in the constitution,” Mubarak said near the end of the speech. The constitution allows the president to transfer his powers if he is unable to carry out his duties “due to any temporary obstacle,” but it does not mean his resignation. Mubarak said he would stay in the country and that he is “adamant to continue to shoulder my responsibility to protect the constituion and safeguard the interests of the people … until power is handed over to those elected in September by the people in free and fair elections in which all the guarantees of transparencies will be secured.”

Mubarak said that the demands of protesters for democracy are just and legitimate, but he adhered tightly to a framework for reform that Suleiman drew up and that protesters have roundly rejected, fearing it will mean only cosmetic change. He said he had requested the amendment of five articles of the constitution to loosen the now restrictive conditions on who can run for president, to restore judicial supervision of elections, and to impose term limits on the presidency. He also annulled a constitutional article that gives the president the right to order a military trial for civilians accused of terrorism. He said that step would “clear the way” for eventually scrapping a hated emergency law that gives police virtually unlimited powers of arrest, but with a major caveat — “once security and stability are restored.”

2359: From Washington, Stephen McInerney of the Project on Middle East Democracy tells the BBC of Mr Mubarak: “He’s not rebuking the diktats of Washington. What he’s doing is rebuking the demands of the Egyptian people”. Mr McInerney was referring to Mr Mubarak’s declaration earlier that he “never bent to foreign diktats

2347: Yasser Seif in Cairo tweets: “Around 2,000 protesters are marching from #Tahrir towards the presidential palace in Heliopolis.”

2313: The BBC’s Paul Adams in Tahrir Square says the army seems more nervous than it had been before: “People are talking about the possibility of marches tomorrow, of going to the presidential palace, and that they know that could be a gauntlet to the army. But a number of people were insisting that the army remained neutral, even though there was a slight suspicion they were lied to earlier in the day when they were told ‘tonight you will get all your demands ‘. They still believe the army is neutral.”

2304: Ismail Zakaria, a 45-year-old teacher protesting in Cairo, tells Reuters: “The speech was unprecedented in its stubbornness and foolishness. Tomorrow I am heading to the palace in protest. Until Mubarak falls, there is no turning back.”

2240: A reminder about Mohamed ElBaradei: He is a former UN nuclear chief and Nobel Peace Prize winner and has become a figurehead of the opposition movement. He lives in Vienna, but returned to Egypt on 27 January as protests were building. He has a low profile within Egypt, but has announced several times he is willing to run for president if there were guarantees of free and fair elections.

2233: Mohamed ElBaradei tweets: “Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now.”

2218: The BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen sums up a fast-moving few hours: There was a meeting of the army’s high command without the president or vice president, and afterwards they issued a communique saying they would safeguard the wishes of the people. It seemed very much like the army had taken control of the country – indeed that is how it was written up by some people. But Mr Mubarak is a military man, he has connections there. And it seems like army may not be speaking with one voice at the moment.

2201: State TV is still showing images from the square, but without sound, so without the deafening crowd noise that other broadcasters are trying to speak over.

February 10, 2011

EGYPT: Analysts predict Mubarak speech will incite further unrest

Michael Rubin, a Middle East analyst at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp., “It’s going to make things worse.” And Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics, told Reuters, “The speech was one of [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak’s most defiant moments: As a result the next few days are going to be very, very dangerous for Egypt.”  Lynch described Mubarak’s address to the nation as “meandering” and “confused.”

“He offered a vaguely worded delegation of power to Vice President Omar Suleiman, long after everyone in Egypt had stopped listening,” Lynch wrote, adding that Suleiman’s address shortly after on Nile TV “made things even worse, if that’s possible, telling the people to go home and blaming al-Jazeera for the problems.” “It solidified the already deep distrust of his role among most of the opposition and of the protestors, and tied his fate to that of Mubarak,” Lynch wrote of Suleiman.

Lynch anticipates the remarks will galvanized protesters even after 17 days of demonstrations. “And if things don’t explode now, then the crowds tomorrow will be absolutely massive,” he wrote. Gerges noted in his comments to Reuters that during the next few days, unrest would test the military’s loyalty to Mubarak. “Egypt will undergo a profound crisis that will put the army in a very risky position because its authority and unity may be undermined — will it choose the president or the people?” he said.

Rubin speculated that after violent clashes, the military would side with protesters and take over the government until the September elections.”Ultimately the army will side with the protesters for two reasons. First of all, while Hosni Mubarak came from the army, he antagonised the army by trying to force his son, force the army to accept his son as his successor,” Rubin told ABC. “And the other reason is because of the conscription problem inside Egypt. Many Egyptians don’t particularly like being conscripted into the army and ultimately many of the soldiers in the streets will sympathise with the people who are their friends and neighbors.”

The Daily News Egypt

February 10, 2011

Mubarak delegates authority to VP, vows to live and die in Egypt

CAIRO: In a highly anticipated speech that left many disappointed, President Hosni Mubarak said that he will delegate presidential authority to Egypt’s Vice President Omar Suleiman but within the constraints of the constitution, which does not give him the authority to dissolve parliament and cabinet. The speech, in which many expected the President to step down, included a passing apology over the deaths reported during protests last week. Mubarak referred to the constitutional amendments that are currently being drafted by a constitutional reform panel: article 76, regulating presidential elections and the conditions for candidature; article 77, regarding term limits for the president; article 88 concerned with how elections are conducted; article 93 concerned with court rulings on rigged votes; and article 189 regarding the process of amendments to the constitution. He also requested the cancellation of article 179 which allows the president to use military courts.

Immediate reactions to President Mubarak’s speech were negative. Youth activist Asmaa Mahfouz, speaking to BBC Arabic, said that the speech is completely rejected. Al-Wafd Party’s chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawy also told the BBC that the promise to hand over authority to the VP came too late. Minutes after Mubarak’s speech, VP Suleiman President reiterated that the president put the interests of the nation above all else, emphasizing his commitment to peaceful transition of power according to the constitution. He said that he will continue the national dialogue he had already started and will help realize the people’s demands, but called on all citizens to look to the future which he described as “bright with freedom and democracy.” He also warned against the “destructive agendas” intent on “obstructing our goals” and urged protesters to go home. Protests have been sweeping the country since Jan. 25, when online activists called for street action to shed light on police brutality on Police Day. But when thousands took to the streets, instead of calling for political and economic reforms, they called for toppling the regime.

The protests gained momentum despite a violent crackdown that reached its height on Jan. 28-29 and on Feb. 2. Numbers grew to reach hundreds of thousands, with estimates that more than 2 million were protesting on Feb. 8 across Egypt. Labor protests and strikes began sprouting on Feb. 9-10, including in key industries such as public transport. Protesters called for yet another “million man march” on Friday to commemorate over 300 killed in protests. Feb. 11 was expected to draw the largest number of protesters across Egypt. At around 5 pm on Thursday, an army officer reportedly told protester to expect an important statement from the military responding to their demands. This coincided with other official statements that suggested the President might step down, a notion labeled earlier as unthinkable. Speculation about the president’s resignation fueled cheers in protests around the country, especially in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Crowds started flocking to the Square despite some concerns about a possible military coup that might impose martial laws.

The newly appointed Secretary-General of the ruling National Democratic Party, told BBC that Mubarak should step aside. “I expect the president to respond to the demands of the people, because what matters to him in the end is the stability of the country. The post is not important to him,” Hossam Badrawy said. “The right action in my opinion is to send a letter for constitutional amendments, to step aside and give the power to the vice president and to ask for early elections when the amendment is approved,” he said. “I don’t think he will leave the country. He is a military hero, he has lots of good things that have been done, lots of mistakes too,” he added. Later, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued what it called “statement number one”, saying that the council will remain in continuous session to consider measures necessary to protect the nation. In addition to affirming its commitment to protecting citizens’ safety, the council also cited its “support for the legitimate demands of the people”. TV footage of the meeting showed the absence of Mubarak, the military commander-in-chief.

The head of the US Central Intelligence Agency also said it was likely Mubarak would step down in the following few hours. “There’s a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down this evening, which would be significant in terms of where the, hopefully, orderly transition in Egypt takes place,” Leon Panetta told a congressional hearing in Washington. Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq also told the BBC that the 82-year-old strongman may step down. Mubarak met with Shafiq and Vice President Omar Suleiman in the evening, according to State TV. Minister of Information Anas El-Fiqi, however, told news agencies that the president wouldn’t step down. At 8 pm, US President Barack Obama said “We are witnessing history unfold — it is a moment of transformation that is taking place.” “We want those young people – and all Egyptians – to know America will continue to do everything that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt,” he added. –With agencie

“Egyptians renew appeal for Mubarak to resign now on biggest day of protest”

February 8, 2011

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have turned out for the largest demonstration to date in Cairo, with renewed demands for the immediate resignation of their president, Hosni Mubarak. Vice-president Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief who is leading negotiations with Egypt’s opposition groups, sought to appease protesters with a TV assurance that Mubarak had endorsed a timetable for a “peaceful and organised transfer of power” in September. Suleiman said that Mubarak has set up a committee to recommend constitutional amendments to remove tight restrictions on who can run for president, and promised there will be no reprisals against protesters. “The president welcomed the national consensus, confirming that we are putting our feet on the right path to getting out of the current crisis,” Suleiman said.

However, in a sign of growing impatience with the demonstrations, he last night warned the protests could not go on indefinitely. “We can’t bear this for a long time, and there must be an end to this crisis as soon as possible,” he said. State news agency Mena said he made the remarks at a meeting with newspaper editors, where he rejected any departure for Mubarak or “end to the regime” and said they prefered to deal with the crisis using dialogue, adding, “We don’t want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools.” But the consensus among the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who packed into Tahrir Square on the 15th day of protest – discrediting government claims that support is fading – was that Mubarak must go now and that the regime cannot be trusted. On the streets, the concessions were viewed as further evidence of the government’s weakness and spurred a determination to keep protesting.

The demonstration drew many Egyptians who have not attended the protests before – including women, children and government workers – in a sign of the broadening base of support for the action. But some of the regime’s opponents said they feared the scale of the defiance could again provoke a violent backlash. The UN estimates that 300 people have died in state-sponsored violence against protesters. Among those who appeared in Tahrir Square was the newly-released Google executive and blogger Wael Ghonim, who was held by state security for 12 days. He made an emotional TV appearance, which had a powerful impact in Egypt and on the web, and helped motivate more people to attend the protests.

“You are the heroes. I am not a hero, you are the heroes,” Ghonim said. Thousands of the protesters began a sit-in on the road outside parliament, which the opposition has been threatening to take over since the protests began. Opposition activists said Suleiman’s statement fell far short of their demands for Mubarak’s departure, for parliament’s dissolution and for the installation of a broadly representative interim government.

‘You have a voice in this country,’ emerging protest figure says

February 9, 2011

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) — Galvanized by the emotional words of a freed Google executive, thousands of Egyptians jammed Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday, some for the first time, dismissing the embattled regime’s pledges of constitutional reforms. The crowd swelled as the 15th day of protests progressed. A second front sprouted as several hundred protesters filled the city block where Egypt’s parliament building stands. Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was seized January 28 and released Monday, may be emerging as a face for Egypt’s uprising. After a television interview that inspired protesters, Ghonim spoke from a makeshift stage Tuesday in Tahrir Square. “This country, I have said for a long time, this country is our country, and everyone has a right to this country,” he said. “You have a voice in this country. This is not the time for conflicting ideas, or factions, or ideologies. This is the time for us to say one thing only, ‘Egypt is above all else.'” His words prompted the protesters to begin chanting “Egypt above all else.”

“I apologize to you, I am so tired,” Ghonim said. “Today we are emphasizing our voice.” As he walked off the stage, Ghonim told a reporter in English, “We don’t care. We are going to do what we’ve got to do.” Ghonim, a Dubai-based marketing executive, is the administrator of a Facebook page called “We are all Khaled Said,” named after an Alexandria activist who was allegedly beaten to death by police. The page is widely credited with calling the first protest January 25. Another Facebook page created to authorize Ghonim to speak on behalf of the protesters has 150,000 fans. “I came today for the first time (Tuesday),” said Dalia, a protester in Tahrir Square. She did not give her last name. “Nothing will make this regime go unless we keep on coming and keep on coming.” Earlier, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced on state television that a committee has been authorized to amend Egypt’s constitution to allow for free, fair and competitive elections. The amendments, Suleiman said, would be drafted by an independent judicial commission.

He said he had discussed a number of reforms in recent talks with opposition representatives. Among them were greater freedom for the media, the release of detainees and the lifting of the continuous state of emergency. He also assured Egyptians that they should not fear arrest for speaking their minds. But with the credibility of the regime in serious question, the statements from President Hosni Mubarak’s deputy fell short. Real change, say Mubarak’s foes, can only come with Mubarak’s immediate departure and an overhaul of the constitution, not amendments here and there. “That’s not good enough,” said Mohammed Habib, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, a key opposition party in Egypt that is outlawed by the constitution on grounds that it is based on religion. “The first thing that the regime should do is for the president to leave,” he said. “The government is dividing the opposition through these announcements.” Asem Abedine, head of the pan-Arab Nassiri party, said Mubarak is merely angling for time. “The government is only making these announcements to avoid making real changes demanded by the people,” he said. “The emergency laws should be lifted.” Mubarak has ruled Egypt with an iron hand since 1981, aided by an emergency decree that gave him sweeping powers.

The Daily News Egypt

February 8, 2011

Mass protests resume in Cairo, Mahalla, Alexandria, Suez

CAIRO: Hundreds of thousands of citizens resumed protesting Tuesday in Cairo, Mahalla, Suez and Alexandria demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Tens of thousands flocked to the central Tahrir Square throughout the day. Inside there was less chanting than before. Protesters carried a symbolic coffin representing the reported 300 killed in protests. A large Egyptian flag, carried by 100 people, was also displayed. Sarcastic and humorous posters outshined the strictly political ones, adding to the festive mood inside. A few thousand protested in front of the People’s Assembly building, a few hundred meters down the road from the square. Calls were made through social media networks for some of the Tahrir protesters to join the PA demonstration. In the Delta City of Mahalla, an eyewitness said about 200,000 citizens protested in Al-Bahr, the city’s main street.

“Not only do people call on Mubarak to step down, they also call for his prosecution,” activist Mohamed Maree told Daily News Egypt. “This protest is a response to Vice President Omar Suleiman’s attempt to imply that there has been progress in the dialogue with the opposition forces that do not by any means represent the protesters or this revolution,” Maree added. Protesters also urged workers at all factories in Mahalla, known for its textile industry, to hold an open shrike until their demands are met. Protesters in Alexandria voiced the same demands. About 300,000 citizens formed four demonstrations held simultaneously in Raml Station, Moharam Bek, Sidi Beshr and El-Asafra neighborhoods then were joined by a similar number who returned from work following afternoon prayers.

“People in Alexandria call for the prosecution of Mubarak for what he did to the Egyptian people,” former MP and Muslim Brotherhood senior member Sobhi Saleh told Daily News Egypt. “We also call for sequestering his fortune.” On Friday Alexandria protesters will hold a symbolic public trial for the embattled president. In Suez, thousands of citizens took to the main streets calling for sacking the governor and the chief of police, demands that have been ignored so far. “We will keep protesting until they go away,” one protester told Daily News Egypt. “They are responsible for killing and injuring dozens of people during the protests held at the end of last month,” he added. Tens of Suez citizens have been killed since the protests first erupted on Jan. 25 and hundreds more injured. “Why didn’t the prime minister respond to the rage of Suez citizens who have been calling for the resignation of the police directorate chief and the governor?” another protester said.

During the Jan. 25 protests, riot-control forces used live ammunition resulting in dozens of casualties. Outraged citizens took to the streets on the following days for more demonstrations that witnessed more violence on both sides. “The official number announced says only 17 have been killed and 250 injured since Jan. 25,” a medical source told Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity. “But I swear I saw dozens of dead bodies in the morgue and over 500 wounded,” he added. A number of Suez lawyers traveled to Cairo to join the protesters in Tahrir Square. Others representing different political affiliations and professions also headed to Cairo for the demonstrations.

“Mubarak has started to hunt us down,”

February 7, 2010

CyberDissidents.org has just received word that Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer, recently released after four years in prison, has disappeared.  Kareem is a member of CyberDissidents.org’s blogger board and we are horrified at this news. Last night around 11 pm Kareem left Tahrir square with a friend.  They were warned not to go through Kasr Elnil because of ambushes and arrests there.  It is not known if they used that exit, but Kareem and his friend have not been heard from since.  Their phones are off and they are not in their apartments.  “Mubarak has started to hunt us down,” a friend of Kareem’s told CyberDissidents.org.  “One more week in power and he will kill us all.” Kareem is a sensitive soul who wants nothing more than to live in freedom.  Yesterday, he spoke with CyberDissidents.org and urged us to continue highlighting violations of human rights in Egypt.  A few weeks ago, we asked Kareem about his four years in prison.  “Freedom is worth the sacrifice,” he said. Please spread the word about Kareem’s disappearance to friends, family, press and policy-makers.

Egypt blogger jailed for ‘insult’

February 22, 2007

An Egyptian court has sentenced a blogger to four years’ prison for insulting Islam and the president. Abdel Kareem Soliman’s trial was the first time that a blogger had been prosecuted in Egypt. He had used his web log to criticise the country’s top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university and President Hosni Mubarak, whom he called a dictator. A human rights group called the verdict “very tough” and a “strong message” to Egypt’s thousands of bloggers. Soliman, 22, was tried in his native city of Alexandria. He blogs under the name Kareem Amer. A former student at al-Azhar, he called the institution “the university of terrorism” and accused it of suppressing free thought. The university expelled him in 2006 and pressed prosecutors to put him on trial.

During the five-minute court session the judge said Soliman was guilty and would serve three years for insulting Islam and inciting sedition, and one year for insulting Mr Mubarak. Egypt arrested a number of bloggers who had been critical of the government during 2006, but they were all subsequently freed. Hafiz Abou Saada of the Egyptian Human Rights Organisation called the sentence “a strong message to all bloggers who are put under strong surveillance”. The UK-based organisation Amnesty International said the ruling was “yet another slap in the face of freedom for expression in Egypt”. Fellow blogger Amr Gharbeia told the BBC it would not stop Egyptian bloggers from expressing opinions as “it is very difficult to control the blogosphere”. There have been no reported comments on the sentence from the Egyptian authorities.

Prior to his Release After Spending Four Years in Prison State Security Officer Beat Kareem Amer and Held him Illegally

November 10, 2010

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said today that the Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer has been subjected to beatings by an officer of SSI ,at the headquarter, known as Pharaohs , Alexandria. As well as, Kareem was  illegally held for five days, as he was supposed to be released on  current November 5th , after having served his sentence ,a four full years ,that was issued by  Alexandria Misdemeanors court. Actually, Karim Amer was out  from the prison of  Burj Al Arab, Alexandria desert on 6th November, and the proceedings of his release was set and completed, but some  SSI officers had detained him at SSI  headquarter in Alexandria, where he was beaten by a junior officer yesterday ,and  an order to keep him detained was issued ,giving a deaf ear to law, as a result to the conviction of the officer that  he will flee punishment, and that he will not be accountable on these crimes.

Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said “these sadist practices  against unarmed prisoner ,  create a climate of hatred against the police in general and SSI officers in particular. Kareem Amer already spent  Punishment of  complete four years, and releasing him has become a mandatory, so why  they  beat and held him illegally?” “Interior Minister ,has to know now who offend the reputation of his ministry, are his officers who attack unarmed prisoner due for release, or the person who expose these crimes that have already taken place?”,Eid added ANHRI,asserts that  the Ministry of  Interior with all its officers and soldiers, are not stronger than a  right’s owner, and  the sadistic practices of some of its officers will not  be able to silence  a prisoner, who the government  not only imprisoned  unjustly, but also held him illegally. Whatever the position of the officers who  tamper the law,  a day will come when they will be tried for these crimes, and people do not forget.

Tahrir Square protesters defy a return to a normal Egypt

February 7, 2011

The hardcore of revolutionaries who refuse to step outside of Tahrir Square is down to 1,000 or so. Each night they are squeezed into the cluster of tents planted on the large roundabout at the heart of the square. The protesters are an unusually mixed community: young and middle-aged, mostly men but a few women and families too. Muslims, Christians and those who choose not to pray have been thrown together in a single cause. At times the easygoing atmosphere has the air of a festival, as do the long lines for the toilets. But a glance over at the ever-present soldiers on the edge of the square and the strategically piled rocks – sometimes used to spell out demands such as “leave now” and “get out” – are reminders, if any were needed, of the bloody price paid a few days ago to keep the square in the protesters’ hands.


Once the sun is up, Tahrir Square starts to fill. On some days, hundreds of thousands have squeezed in after showing identity cards to the soldiers ringing the square in a disconcerting demonstration of orderliness and respect. The overnight residents take to clearing up, brushing dirt from the roads, putting rubbish in bags for the dust carts that arrive each day and stacking the stones. The tea sellers emerge and the young boys who sell Egyptian flags for E£10 (£1.40) each. The morning arrivals come with bread and vegetables for those who have stayed through the night. Amr Mahmoud, who has been in the square since the beginning of the protest a fortnight ago, waves his hand at the small bowl of food before him. He is outraged. “The government says we are eating Kentucky Fried Chicken. Where is the Kentucky?” he asks. “They say we are paid to be here but we have no money.” The KFC just across the street is firmly shut. It is plastered in anti-government posters and graffiti, as is just about every other business in the square except for a small gift shop whose owner remains a fan of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.

Egypt: ‘Omar Suleiman was part of the old system. We want a new system’

The news dribbled in to Tahrir Square in phone calls, text messages, by word of mouth. The details were vague but the demonstrators, some of whom have been camped in the square for nearly a fortnight, agreed that concessions offered by the man who increasingly appears to run Egypt, the vice president and former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, were a good sign. The regime was crumbling. But what of President Hosni Mubarak? The news was disappointing. Tens of thousands of people packed in to Tahrir Square again, as determined now to rid Egypt of the man who has ruled for 30 years as they were when the uprising began nearly a fortnight ago. Some welcomed news of talks between Suleiman and opposition figures as further evidence that the regime’s power is waning. But they still wanted to see the protests through until their central demand – for Mubarak’s resignation – has been met. Many were wary of the apparent deal being cooked up between Washington and Suleiman, with European backing, for the old regime to oversee the transition to democracy.

“If Mubarak is still president, nothing will happen. If he will leave, then Omar Suleiman, no problem if he meets our demands,” said Amr Mahmoud, who has spent 12 days in the square with his wife, Reem. “But Suleiman was part of the old system. We want a new system.” Mahmoud was among many pro-democracy demonstrators suspicious of US backing for Suleiman’s plan to control the transition. After all, Suleiman was head of the intelligence services that played a commanding role in suppressing political dissent and free speech. He also served the US in co-operating with its rendition of alleged terrorists, some of whom were interrogated under torture on behalf of the Americans in Egyptian jails. “Why does America want to work with this man?” asked Mahmoud. “He has not been good for Egypt. He has not been good for us. He has served Mubarak and he has served America. We do no trust him and if they have chosen him, then we do not trust America. We will stay here until we get what we want.” There was no particular anti-US sentiment in Tahrir Square, but there was a wariness of its role. Had the US pushed Mubarak out the door last week, it might have taken the sting out of the protests and made it easier to sell the arrangement Washington is now promoting. But Mubarak remains and some of the protesters were concerned that the US was attempting to manoeuvre Suleiman into power to perpetuate a pliable regime or at least keep out a more hostile one.

Widespread scepticism greeted the US claim that its primary concern was to maintain stability on the path to free elections. To many Egyptians, the American definition of stability can be seen in the context of concern about Israel’s security and fear of Islam. Washington’s focus on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the demands from some in American politicians that it be kept from power at all costs, concerns large numbers of people who see the organisation as part of the patchwork of their country’s politics – even if some Egyptians share American fears. The protesters sought to demonstrate to the outside world that no religious division exists among them, with services to remember those killed in the protests. Officially the death toll stands at 12 but the UN says as many as 300 people may have been killed with significant numbers of casualties in cities beyond Cairo where the protests against the government have been just as vigorous. In Tahrir Square, Christians and Muslims held hands and formed protective guards at each other’s services in a demonstration of solidarity designed to convey that the protesters are united in common cause and that heated debate in the west about the role of the Muslim Brotherhood is of less concern to Egyptians. Beyond the square, banks reopened for the first time in days, relieving a desperate shortage of cash for many people who did not have money to buy food.

The authorities called on people to return to their jobs today, the first day of the working week in Egypt. The government also wanted the stock market to reopen in the morning after a fortnight’s closure in a drive to restore normality and stem the financial losses caused by the uprising, but the move was cancelled. Bankers estimate that the upheaval has cost the economy more than $3bn (£1.87bn) over the past fortnight. The prime minister said one million tourists had fled the country and there was little sign of them returning soon. But in Tahrir Square, there appeared to be little interest in getting the country back to normal. “We don’t want normal with Mubarak. We want normal without Mubarak,” said Ayman Faroud, who has spent 10 days living and sleeping in the square. “Normal will be when we elect our president, elect our parliament, do not have a secret police and we never have to think about Mubarak again. Right now we think about him every minute of the day because that is the only reason we are here.” As fear of the regime subsides, some big names joined the protesters. Nader ElSayed, a goalkeeper for the Egyptian national team, led chants of: “People will overthrow the regime.” Not everyone in the square was quite so enamoured at the idea of change.

Oma Abu Aziza owns a small gift shop down one of the side streets barricaded by the protesters. He doesn’t sell anything Egyptians want to buy and the tourists have evaporated. The mass-produced wooden pharaohs and bottles of lotus oil sit have been sitting untouched on the glass shelves. “It’s a very bad 12 days. If you have money, you’ve spent it to eat,” he said. “I like Mubarak. Mubarak is a good man. The people are wrong. The president has done a lot of things for them but they don’t believe in him.” Abu Aziza ticked off Mubarak’s achievements – head of the air force, confronting the Muslim Brotherhood, bringing stability to Egypt for 30 years – but then acknowledged that there had been problems recently. “The price rises. That is a big problem. Sugar was E£1 [11p]. Now it is E£6. Meat was E£7. Now it is E£70,” he said. Abu Aziza is not blind to reality. The people may be wrong but outside the window of his empty gift shop they have been speaking for much of Egypt and the political momentum remains with them. “If the people do not want him, Mubarak should go home now. He should stay at home. We Egyptians do not need to fight brother against brother. They are right. Let’s have an election,” he said.

Egypt protesters unmoved by talks

Talks between the Egyptian government and opposition groups on tackling the country’s political crisis have failed to end protests in central Cairo. Crowds of protesters, who have occupied the city’s Tahrir Square for two weeks, say they will only leave when President Hosni Mubarak stands down. The government offered a series of concessions at Sunday’s talks, but the opposition said they were not enough. US President Obama has said Egypt will not “go back to what it was”. Opposition groups met members of the government on Sunday to discuss how to resolve the stand-off which has paralysed the country and left some 300 people dead. Vice-President Omar Suleiman hosted the talks. Six groups were represented, including a coalition of youth organisations, a group of “wise men” and the banned Muslim Brotherhood in its first ever meeting with the government.

Egyptian state TV said the participants had agreed to form a joint committee of judicial and political figures tasked with suggesting constitutional amendments. But opposition leaders said they were sceptical of the government’s motives and that the measures did not go far enough. The Muslim Brotherhood said it would only take part in future talks if the government made progress on meeting its demands that Mr Mubarak resign, parliament be resolved, emergency laws lifted and all political prisoners released. Senior Brotherhood figure Essam el-Erian told reporters the authorities had responded to some of the demands but only in “a superficial way.” Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei – who was not at the talks but sent a representative to meet Vice-President Suleiman separately – described the process as “opaque”. He said he was proposing a one-year transitional period where Egypt would be run by a three-member presidential council as it prepared for elections.

President Mubarak has so far refused to resign, saying that to do so would cause chaos. He has instead said he will not stand for re-election in September. But US President Barack Obama has insisted that an “orderly transition” must begin immediately. In an interview with Fox news on Sunday, he said: “The Egyptian people want freedom, they want free and fair elections, they want a representative government, and so what we’ve said is, you have to start a transition now.” He added that the US could not dictate to Mr Mubarak what he should do, but that it could advise him “the time is now for you to start making a change in that country”. Later on Sunday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to caution Egypt against a rush to replace its leader of 30 years. “As I understand the constitution, if the president were to resign, he would be succeeded by the speaker of the house, and presidential elections would have to be held in 60 days,” she said.

“Now the Egyptians are going to have to grapple with the reality of what they must do.” Mrs Clinton also praised Mr Mubarak for the compromises he had already put in place, including his pledge that neither he nor his son, Gamal, would run for office in the next elections. It was widely believed that Gamal Mubarak was being groomed to take over the leadership from his father. “They have to be viewed as an important set of steps that he has taken,” the AFP news agency quoted Mrs Clinton as saying. Tens of thousands again joined demonstrations in Cairo and other cities on Sunday, although the authorities have been attempting to restore a sense of normality to the capital. The government is seeking to revive an economy said to be losing at least $310m (£192m) a day. Many shops, factories and the stock exchange have been closed, and basic goods have been running short. On Sunday banks in Cairo opened for the first time in a week, drawing long queues as people waited to withdraw money. Correspondents say many Egyptians have been wondering how quickly daily life will return to normal regardless of the outcome of the struggle for power.

Daily News Egypt

Egypt gov’t talks with reformists about Mubarak

CAIRO: Egypt tried to get the nation back to work on Sunday with banks reopening, and the vice president held unprecedented talks with a banned Islamist group and other opponents about their demand that President Hosni Mubarak quit. A steady stream of employees flowed into Cairo’s financial district and customers queued to access their accounts, the first day for banks to open after a week-long closure. Armored personnel carriers stood guard at intersections where soldiers had erected sandbag barriers, as buses dropped employees off at large state banks. Demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, marking a “Day of Martyrs” for those killed in protests, said they would intensify their 12-day battle to oust the president who has vowed to stay on until September elections. With some Egyptians keen for a return to normal after unrest that the United Nations says may have killed 300 people, the government has warned of the damage to political stability and the economy of prolonging protests that shook the Middle East.

The commander of the army, which many say holds the key to Egypt’s future, was touring Tahrir (Liberation) Square to try to persuade the protesters, complaining about poverty, repression and corruption, to leave the usually busy intersection. “We want people to go back to work and to get paid, and life to get back to normal,” army commander Hassan Al-Roweny said. The United States, Egypt’s ally which provides the army with $1.3 billion annually, has underlined the need for gradual change and political talks between the government and opposition groups in order to achieve an orderly handover of power.  With signs of economic life resuming and concessions from the government to the reform movement, the cabinet wants the uprising to settle down to political talks to put an end to clashes between demonstrators and Mubarak supporters. There have also been signs of compromise in the opposition movement, with leaders backing off their refusal to talk to the government until Mubarak, 82, and the old guard leave.

But many reformists who used the Internet to mobilize mass support for change are determined to immediately force out Mubarak, a former air force commander who took over when Anwar Sadat was assassinated, fearing a loss of momentum. Mohamed ElBaradei, who has emerged as a spokesman for the opposition, said there was a “hard core” who would never give up their protest in Tahrir Square and other cities around Egypt until Mubarak steps down. He was anxious about more violence. “It might not be every day but what I hear is that they might stage demonstrations every other day,” said the Nobel peace laureate. “The difference is that it would become more angry and more vicious. And I do not want to see it turning from a beautiful, peaceful revolution into a bloody revolution.” The United States has backed the talks between Vice President Omar Suleiman, a long-time intelligence chief, and opposition groups, and made clear dialogue must be given time.

Suleiman met the groups on Sunday in talks joined for the first time by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most organized opposition group, which had previously refused to talk to the government until Mubarak left. “We have decided to engage in a round of dialogue to ascertain the seriousness of officials towards the demands of the people and their willingness to respond to them,” a spokesman for the banned Brotherhood told Reuters on Saturday. It is testimony to the ground protesters have gained that the government is willing to talk to the group which would have been unthinkable before the protests started on Jan. 25. Before that date members were being regularly rounded up and jailed. The Brotherhood, which took a backseat in the early days of the protest and then raised its profile, has downplayed Israel’s fears of an Iranian-style theocracy emerging in Egypt.

“Christians, Muslims join voices in Tahrir Prayer”

February 6, 2011

CAIRO: Christians and Muslims recited in unison the “Our Father” prayer in Tahrir on Sunday, a day intended to commemorate those killed in pro-democracy protests since Jan. 25. Egypt’s Protestant Asr El-Dubara Church has played a big role in calling for a Christian prayer in the central Tahrir Square, in which protesters have camped since Jan. 25. Protestant preacher Ihab El-Kharat led two sermons at 1 and 2 pm at the Square.
“This is a blessed land. … Peace will always prevail in this country,” he told the tens of thousands that flocked to Tahrir, or Liberation Square.

“We are all one. Muslims and Christians are one,” he said. This was proved true when a man who identified himself as Antoine, an Egyptian-French affiliated with the Catholic Church but only representing himself, recited the “Our Father” prayer. The widely known Christian prayer was loudly recited after him by Muslims and Christians alike in a heartwarming show of unity.
Objections rose when he reached the part about forgiveness. “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us,” he said. “And we forgive Mubarak.” The crowd refused to offer their forgiveness, citing the still-unrecognized killing of about 300 protesters.

Pope Shenouda, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, had asked members of the church not to join protests. However, a man who said he’s from the Melli Council of the Coptic Church but only representing himself recited a prayer of gratitude. All speakers emphasized however that they represent all Christians in Egypt regardless of the sect. A memorial was also held for those killed during what was dubbed the “Sunday of Martyrs”. To add a hopeful note, a couple tied the knot in Tahrir, celebrating their marriage with the protesters.

February 6, 2011

EGYPT: Al-Jazeera English correspondent detained in Cairo

Al-Jazeera says a correspondent for its English-language network was detained by the Egyptian military Sunday. The Qatar-based news network called for the immediate release of Ayman Mohyeldin, an Emmy-nominated journalist who it said was detained near Tahrir Square, the center of anti-government protests. Journalists have been repeatedly targeted while covering the unrest. Dozens have been detained or attacked by pro-government mobs in recent days. On Friday, Al-Jazeera said one of its Cairo offices was set on fire and two of its employees were arrested. The previous week, it said its journalists had their press credentials revoked and nine were detained. Satellite providers across the region have also blocked the network’s signal. Government officials have blamed foreigners and the opposition Muslim Brotherhood for the unrest. But they said that there is no policy to target foreign media and that violence against journalists is unacceptable.

— Alexandra Zavis

February 6, 2011

Central demand not met…Tunisian unrest

CAIRO (AP) — Opponents of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak say new concessions offered today are only a first step and do not meet their central demand. The concessions include freedom of the press, release of detained protesters and the eventual lifting of emergency laws. Opposition figures say while the moves are welcome, they’re still looking for Mubarak’s immediate ouster.

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — There are reports of fresh unrest in Tunisia. Crowds have pillaged and burned a police station in a town where officers shot and killed two demonstrators yesterday. The violence in Kef is the worst since nationwide protests forced Tunsia’s autocratic president into exile last month.

February 6, 2011

In Egypt, security forces target activists

CAIRO — “Do you know why you’re here?” a military interrogator asked an Amnesty International worker who was held incommunicado for nearly two days, bound or blindfolded much of the time. Then he answered his own question. “You’re here for your own protection,” the interrogator told Said Haddadi, a French national who was swept up in a wave of detentions of human rights activists and journalists during deadly clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters. Dozens of activists who were rounded up in Egypt’s chaos like Haddadi have been freed, but some are believed to remain in custody. Advocates say the government refuses to release names or locations of detainees, and the involvement of both police and military agencies makes it hard to determine who is responsible.

“It’s not clear who is doing what,” said Sally Sami of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. On Sunday, Egypt’s Vice President Omar Suleiman met opposition figures and promised to begin releasing political detainees as part of a concession package. Spokesman Magdy Rady said Egypt was in such a state of upheaval that “some groups” might be detaining people “in the name of the government” without proper authority. “In the mess we are in, everything is possible,” said Rady, promising investigation into such cases. “We are really against these forces now.” Al-Jazeera’s English-language news network said one of its correspondents was detained Sunday by the Egyptian military. The report said Ayman Mohyeldin, an American citizen, was taken Sunday from Tahrir Square, where protesters demanding President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster are holding out. He was released after seven hours, the channel said.

Egyptian Nobel laureate Zewail: Mubarak must leave

CAIRO — Egyptian-American scholar and Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail added his weight Sunday to calls for President Hosni Mubarak to step down to help end the standoff with anti-government protesters. Zewail, who has been living in the United States, returned to Egypt Sunday and met with government officials and young protesters to help mediate a resolution as protests continued for a 13th day. “I call on President Hosni Mubarak, leader of the largest country in the Middle East, to give up power to another leader and make history in the Middle East,” he said at a news conference. Zewail, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry, met with Vice President Omar Suleiman, who is leading talks with the opposition for the government. Zewail also met with religious leaders and with Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who has put his name forward as a possible presidential candidate.

February 6, 2011

Fears for Google employee in Egypt

Amnesty International today warned that a Google employee reportedly arrested in Cairo during mass protests is facing a serious risk of torture and other ill-treatment by Egyptian security forces. Amnesty International today warned that a Google employee reportedly arrested in Cairo during mass protests is facing a serious risk of torture and other ill-treatment by Egyptian security forces. Father of two Wael Ghuneim was arrested by Egyptian security forces on 28 January 2011 during protests in Cairo, eyewitnesses said. His whereabouts remain unknown. “The Egyptian authorities must immediately disclose where Wael Ghuneim is and release him or charge him with a recognizable criminal offence,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Middle and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“He must be given access to a doctor and a lawyer of his choice and not be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment. His case is just one of many that highlight the continued crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on those exercising their right to protest peacefully.” Wael Ghuneim, who is Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, traveled to Egypt from Dubai, where he lives, on about the 23 January for a business trip. On 25 January, he attended a number of demonstrations in Cairo, including a large protest in Tahrir Square. He was due to meet his brother for another large demonstration on Friday, 28 January but did not meet him. His relatives became concerned when they discovered his phones had been disconnected.

Eyewitnesses later told Wael Ghuneim’s family that they had seen him being arrested during demonstrations near Mustafa Mohamed Street in Cairo. Amnesty International would consider Wael Ghuneim to be a prisoner of conscience if he was detained merely for exercising his right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.

February 5, 2011

Egypt tells Iran: mind your own business

CAIRO — Egypt’s foreign minister has told Iran to mind its own business after Iran’s top leader praised the Egyptian uprising as an appropriate response to dictatorial rule. Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters Saturday that Iran’s Ali Khamenei seems to have forgotten about the crushing of widespread protests in Iran two years ago. Aboul Gheit said Khamenei should be more attentive to calls for freedom in Iran rather than “distracting the Iranian people’s attention by hiding behind what is happening in Egypt.” The Egyptian foreign minister said that “Iran’s critical moment has not come yet, but we will watch that moment with great anticipation and interest.” Egypt has been rocked by two weeks of protests seeking the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

2 Detained Reporters Saw Secret Police’s Methods Firsthand

February 4, 2011

CAIRO — We had been detained by Egyptian authorities, handed over to the country’s dreaded Mukhabarat, the secret police, and interrogated. They left us all night in a cold room, on hard orange plastic stools, under fluorescent lights. But our discomfort paled in comparison to the dull whacks and the screams of pain by Egyptian people that broke the stillness of the night. In one instance, between the cries of suffering, an officer said in Arabic, “You are talking to journalists? You are talking badly about your country?” A voice, also in Arabic, answered: “You are committing a sin. You are committing a sin.”

We — Souad Mekhennet, Nicholas Kulish and a driver, who is not a journalist and not involved in the demonstrations — were detained Thursday afternoon while driving into Cairo. We were stopped at a checkpoint and thus began a 24-hour journey through Egyptian detention, ending with — we were told by the soldiers who delivered us there — the secret police. When asked, they declined to identify themselves.

february 4, 2011

Egyptian Journalist Ahed Mahmoud Dies Of Gunshot Wounds; First Reported Journalist Death In Uprising

CAIRO — An Egyptian reporter who was shot during clashes a week ago died of his wounds Friday, his employer said, in the first reported death of a journalist in the chaos surrounding Egypt’s anti-government protests. Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, 36, was taking photographs of fighting between protesters and security forces from the balcony of his home when he was shot Jan. 28, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram said on its website. Mahmoud worked for Al-Taawun, a newspaper put out by the Al-Ahram publishing house. He lived near central Tahrir Square, the focal point of protest rallies as well as clashes this week between large crowds of supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak. The United Nations described brazen assaults on reporters that occurred during this week’s violence as an attempt to stifle coverage of anti-government protests. President Barack Obama said attacks on reporters, human rights workers and peaceful protesters in Egypt were “unacceptable.”

The Qatar-based television network Al-Jazeera said its offices in Cairo were set ablaze, along with the equipment inside it. Mubarak supporters assaulted dozens of correspondents with virtual impunity in central Cairo this week with little intervention from nearby military units. There were fewer reports of such attacks on Friday, when anti-government protesters staged a mostly peaceful rally in Tahrir Square. The Egyptian government said reports of “an official policy against international media” were false, and that violence against journalists was unacceptable. “International media have been, and are always, welcome in Egypt,” said the state-run Cairo Press Center, which oversees media accreditation. It said more than 1,000 international journalists were in the country.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said the U.S. government continues to receive disturbing reports about what he called a “very systematic targeting of journalists.” On Friday, two correspondents for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty who had just flown into Cairo were detained, the organization said. It said one of the correspondents who was able to speak to another colleague reported that he believed they were being held in a police station. A Swedish TV reporter, Bert Sundstrom of public broadcaster SVT, was in serious condition at a Cairo hospital after being stabbed in the back on Thursday. CBS News said correspondent Lara Logan and cameramen Don Lee and Max McClellan were released after being held for a day by the Egyptian military, and were headed back to the United States. In Geneva, the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, called the detentions of journalists “a blatant attempt” to stifle news coverage. “One of the prime drivers of this chaos seems to have been the actions of Egypt’s security and intelligence services,” she said.

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie condemned attacks on French media in Cairo and said she was “especially worried about the fate of three French journalists and a researcher about whom French authorities have no news.” The German Foreign Ministry said it summoned the Egyptian ambassador to Berlin, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, to protest violence against demonstrators and journalists. Sweden and Denmark also condemned attacks on the media. “We consider the oppression of mass media representatives working within the law to be unacceptable,” said the Foreign Ministry of Russia, rated one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. Al-Jazeera also said its website was hacked – a banner advertisement on its Arabic-language site was taken down for more than two hours and replaced with a slogan reading “Together for the collapse of Egypt.” The slogan provided a link to a page criticizing the network.

“We will continue our impartial and comprehensive coverage of these unprecedented events,” said Al-Jazeera. Last week, Egyptian authorities closed Al-Jazeera’s Cairo office, revoked the credentials of its reporters and detained several for various periods. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said Egyptian authorities should immediately reveal the whereabouts of more than 30 Egyptian and international human rights activists, lawyers and journalists arrested during in Cairo on Thursday. The groups cited witnesses as saying a military escort took away the detainees. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it had documented at least 101 direct attacks on journalists and news facilities this week, and that it was investigating numerous other reports.

`You Will Be Lynched,’ Says Egyptian Policeman: First Person

February 4, 2011

Having a policeman say he wanted to kill me wasn’t my most frightening moment yesterday in Cairo. That came when police and civilians smashed our car windows — with the five of us inside it — jumped up and down on the roof, spat on us, pulled my hair, beat my friends and dragged us into a police van.

The five of us were lucky: We emerged from our confrontation with President Hosni Mubarak’s police and operatives alive and relatively healthy. Violence over the past 11 days, much of it in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, has killed as many as 300 people in Egypt, according to the United Nations.

But it was a day I never dreamed could occur in my native city. It happened not because I was a reporter, a Sudan-based contract journalist for Bloomberg News returning to Cairo for vacation. The friends giving me a ride downtown were just trying to take food and first-aid supplies to those injured the previous night in clashes with pro-Mubarak protesters.

We got out of the car when we arrived at about 11:30 a.m. in Talaat Harb square near Tahrir, our planned transfer point for the medical supplies. We felt somewhat safe, as one of the demonstrators had told us it was a secure entrance. When I left the night before, it was controlled by anti-Mubarak protesters.

In less than a minute, a mob of about 40 civilian men surrounded our car, banging on the vehicle and grabbing our bags. They looted 1500 Egyptian pounds ($256) worth of medical supplies and 800 pounds worth of food and drinks, uninterested in our explanation of whom it was for.

Smashed Window

I held onto my backpack, with my Egyptian ID card, as a group of 20 men tried to tear it from me. We managed to get back into the car and sped toward downtown. As we were driving away, one of the mob smashed a side window with a metal rod.

Then we saw an army tank. It was the army that permitted the massive march on Feb. 1 by promising not to fire on demonstrators. And it was the army that told people to return home the next day.

We pleaded with the soldiers on the tank to protect us: One plainclothes man had followed us in a car from Talaat Harb square, accompanied by others on foot. The soldiers did nothing and we drove quickly on.

Our next potential saviors appeared: a group of uniformed policemen, dressed in winter black pullovers. We approached them in the car, asking for protection. Then the man who followed us from Talaat Harb arrived and accused our driver, my friend Mahmoud, of running over seven people as we left the square. It wasn’t true.

Traitor Accusations

A policeman took away the car key, and about 50 men in plainclothes and five policemen started pounding on our car. They asked our nationality — we were all Egyptians — and accused us of being Palestinians, Americans and Iranians. And, they said, traitors to Egypt.

For about 30 minutes, though it seemed more like an hour, the crowd grew, reaching between 100 and 200. They smashed the back windshield, shattering glass all over the car and in our clothing. Men got onto the roof of the car, jumping and yelling. We tried to hold it up with our hands so it wouldn’t fall on us.

Then uniformed policemen took our ID cards and searched the car, our bags and our pockets. They took both my mobile phones and Mahmoud’s Blackberry, promising to give them back.

Finger Across Neck

A policeman looked me in the eye and said: “You will be lynched today,” running his finger across his neck. Others spat on us. They hit the two men in our group in the face through the broken windows, scratching Mahmoud and punching my other male friend. Someone pulled my hair from the back.

An army officer was standing right next to the car as well. Several of us screamed during the hail of blows and grabbed his hand, asking for protection. He just looked at us and told us not to be afraid.

Two soldiers were also present, one of them standing on the trunk of our car. He fired two gunshots in the air in what seemed to be an attempt to disperse the crowd. When it proved futile, he did nothing.

The attack appeared to be orchestrated between the plainclothes men and the uniformed police. At times the police forces would yell “Cordon,” and the mob would hold hands and form a circle around the car. When they were told to sit on the ground, they again obeyed.

Then a police van arrived and the officers told us to get out of our car and enter the van one by one. At the same time, though, the non-uniformed men were crying, “If you leave your car, we will kill you.” We screamed and asked the army soldiers to open a safe passage; a soldier said he would protect us.

Dragged Into Van

The van pulled up right next to the car. A policeman opened our car door and dragged us one by one into the van as people watched down from their apartment windows, in shock.

Inside the van, three policemen armed with rifles were sitting at the back. The policeman who appeared to be the leader sat by us. “Look down, look down,” he yelled. “We haven’t slept since Friday because of you.”

They searched our bags again and claimed in phone conversations with their superiors that we were carrying “leaflets,” a very dangerous accusation in Egypt. They later acknowledged they had found nothing.

As we drove, I saw about 20 foreigners sitting on the pavement next to one of the roadblocks, surrounded by policemen and army tanks. It wasn’t clear whether they were journalists. Inside, I could see the marks of the attack: Mahmoud’s face was scratched and my other friend’s two teeth appeared to be broken.

Cairo Vacation

The van stopped at the Abdeen police station downtown. A plainclothes policeman sitting in front asked us each our names, jobs, age and addresses. When I said I was a journalist, I was asked only whom I worked for. I told him, adding that I had come to Cairo for a holiday.

Then the police offered us water and tea, in the van. One asked why we were in Tahrir Square. We explained, and he said good citizens like us should stay at home and be safe, away from the troubles.

“You have no idea,” he said. “We arrested Israelis, Americans, Palestinians, Iranians and even Pakistanis in Tahrir. What were they doing in Tahrir? They want to destroy Egypt.”

“We were told you were a group of Palestinians. We were told we would arrive at the car to probably find you dead,” he said, according to my memory of his comments.

Not All Policemen

We asked who the people who attacked us were and he said they were just Egyptians fed up with the demonstrations. “We don’t want you to think that all policemen are bad,” he said. “They were banging on the car just to pretend they are also angry with you, or else these people would have killed the policemen themselves.”

“Now you should go home,” he continued. “Go on Facebook and tell your friends the streets are not safe, and that they shouldn’t come to Tahrir. You were lucky to get out of there alive.”

They returned our bags, empty for the most part. They advised us to get new ID cards and to forget about our phones. And they said Mahmoud’s car, a 2010 Champagne Kia Cerato that cost 120,000 pounds ($20,488), was completely destroyed after we left — even though as we drove away policemen still surrounded the car.

After a long chat, the police escorted us to the edge of downtown, where a friend’s relative met us with a car and took us back to our homes. It was 4:30 p.m. Our ordeal had lasted five hours.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maram Mazen in Cairo at mmazen@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Riad Hamade in Dubai at rhamade@bloomberg.net

Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on current the situation in North Africa

GENEVA (4 February 2011) – “Thank you for coming once again. It is unusual for me to hold two press conferences within a week. This is a reflection of the extreme importance I place on what has been going on in North Africa over the past few weeks, and the ramifications for human rights further afield. First I would like to make a few comments about what is happening in Egypt, before turning to Tunisia and handing over to my high-level team who have just returned from there. I last spoke to you about Egypt on Tuesday, before vast and peaceful demonstrations and marches were held in Alexandria, Cairo and other cities. The world has been watching as events have unfolded since. I warned then, and I reiterate again, that governments must listen to their people and put in practice their human rights obligations. Regimes that deprive people of their fundamental rights, that depend on a ruthless security apparatus to impose their will, are bound to fail in the long-term. Stability depends on the development of human rights and democracy.

Tuesday ended on an optimistic note in Egypt. The peaceful demonstrations showed that the chaos, which some were presenting as the only possible alternative to the existing system, was by no means the inevitable outcome. The violence we all hoped would not happen, did happen on Wednesday when we saw shocking scenes of opposing groups hurling Molotov cocktails, fire bombs and barrages of large stones at each other. Again, there was a noticeable absence of police, and the army failed to separate the two groups, with tragic consequences. Yesterday President Mubarak gaved a television interview in which he said he would like to step down now, but fears the only alternative would be chaos. In the last two days we have seen chaos in central Cairo, and one of the prime drivers of this chaos seems to have been the actions of Egypt’s security and intelligence services. I urge the authorities to make a strong, clear and unequivocal call on the security and intelligence forces that have protected the authoritarian regime in Egypt for the past 30 years, to stop undermining the security of the state they are supposed to serve.

The Prime Minister has apologized for Wednesday’s violence. I welcome this public recognition – unique in Egypt’s recent history – that the authorities have failed in their duties to protect the people. I urge Egypt to follow through and make the necessary reforms to promote human rights and democracy. There must be an investigation into whether this violence was planned, and if so by whom. This investigation must be undertaken in a transparent and impartial manner. Over the past two days, we have learned of other extremely disturbing developments, including the physical assaults on, and intimidation and arbitrary detention of, dozens of journalists in what is clearly a blatant attempt to stifle news of what is going on in Egypt. We have heard of the harassment and arbitrary detention of local and international human rights defenders, including most notably 20 or more people taken yesterday from the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre by military police. Those detained include some of Egypt’s leading activists as well as staff of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – two of the most respected international human rights organizations. As of the time I left for this briefing, I understand they had still not been freed from military detention.

All journalists and human rights defenders who were arrested for practicing their professions must be released immediately and unconditionally. The authorities must order their security and intelligence forces to cease this extreme harassment at once. I also urge the authorities to maintain open communications and internet services, protect media premises, and halt all activities aimed at restricting or manipulating the free flow of information, such as the extraordinary hijacking of Vodafone’s system in order to send propaganda text messages. Egypt must implement its international human rights obligations and prevent further violence. Protestors must be properly protected, including from each other. The security and intelligence forces must be held accountable. Change is coming to Egypt, as it came to Tunisia, but the violence and bloodshed must stop now. Governments should listen to their people, and start addressing their human rights deficits immediately. Waiting until unrest actually happens is, as we have seen in Tunisia and are now seeing in Egypt, not only perpetuating systems that to a greater or lesser degree transgress international laws and standards, it is also a classic case of acting too little, too late. We now see there is an intense hunger for human rights in the Middle East and North Africa – and of course in other countries in other regions. Governments who ignore these extremely loud and clear warning signals, are doing so at their own peril.

As in Egypt, human rights are at the heart of the political change that has happened in Tunisia. In Tunisia, people expressed loudly and clearly their appetite for a genuine break with the past and for a new era in their countries. Socio-economic hardship coupled with a denial of human rights and justice were the instigators for the widespread protests in both countries. My team of senior human rights experts has just returned from visiting Tunisia and the information they received confirmed how integral human rights will be for the construction of the future of this country. They have briefed me on their observations and findings. I was particularly moved by the words of one man whose 28-year-old son died as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest, as he gathered with other young men to protect their neighbourhood from armed militias. Speaking of the death of his son, he told my team that, “there must be sacrifices for there to be change.” His courageous words convey the enormity of the change for ordinary Tunisians and their desire and determination to achieve it despite colossal personal sacrifices and pain. Tunisians are anxious to see the human rights gains of recent weeks reinforced and entrenched in law so that they become a permanent feature of their country.

My team is currently finalizing a written report, based on which I will decide on the best ways in which my Office can provide immediate and more long-term support and assistance to the Tunisian people on a range of human rights issues. I will now hand over to my team for their direct accounts of what they witnessed in Tunisia over the past week and their impressions.”

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