Saturday, February 19, 2011

Egyptians celebrate Mubarak's fall, demand reforms

Washington Post
Egypt protesters mark Mubarak's fall, call for more reforms
Friday, February 18, 2011

By Ian Saleh, Leila Fadel and Muhammed Mansour

Protesters took to the streets in Cairo and elsewhere across Egypt on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians joined nationwide demonstrations Friday to mark the fall a week ago of President Hosni Mubarak and to press the country's military leadership to implement democratic reforms.

The gatherings emphasized that the Feb. 11 ouster of Mubarak was only the start of reforms that demonstrators demanded during their 18-day revolution to end his 30-year, autocratic rule.

In apparent response to a public clamor for accountability, authorities arrested four Mubarak loyalists suspected of corruption, state news agencies announced Friday. The arrests came as prosecutors conduct investigations into charges of money laundering, graft and wasting public funds.

*Protesters continued their call for more reforms and the lifting of emergency laws passed during Mubarak's reign. As Ben Hubbard explained:

Rivaling the biggest crowds since their pro-democracy revolt began, hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Egyptians packed into central Tahrir Square Friday for a day of celebration to mark the fall of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak a week ago and push their new military rulers to steer the country toward reform.

Protest leaders addressed the sprawling crowd, saying rallies must go on until the military to do more to dismantle Mubarak's regime, which still holds considerable power even after his ousting.

Protesters want the army to dissolve the caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, which was appointed by Mubarak in his final weeks and contains many of his stalwarts.

They also want the lifting of emergency laws that give police near unlimited powers of arrest. So far, the military has not moved on either issue, or on another demand for the release of thousands of political prisoners.

*There have also been efforts to probe the finances of Hosni Mubarak and his family. As AP reported:

Anti-corruption campaigners pressed Egypt's chief prosecutor Thursday for an investigation into the assets of Hosni Mubarak and his family, handing over documents that they say spotlight the kind of potentially improper financial dealings that may have allowed the former ruler and his relatives to amass a large fortune.

The family's wealth - speculation has put it at anywhere from $1 billion to $70 billion - has come under growing scrutiny since Mubarak's Feb. 11 ouster opened the floodgates to three decades of pent-up anger at the regime.

Watchdog groups allege that under Mubarak, top officials and tycoons were given preferential treatment in land contracts, allowed to buy state industries at a fraction of their value during Egypt's privatization process launched in the early 1990s, and got other perks that enabled them to increase their wealth exponentially. The perks came at a price - and the Mubaraks were major beneficiaries, the activists say.

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