Saturday, April 30, 2011

Egypt: Authorities must allow peaceful protest & right to strike

Egyptian authorities must allow peaceful protest and the right to strike

April 30, 2011

The Egyptian authorities must abolish a recent law criminalizing peaceful protests and strikes, Amnesty International said ahead of tomorrow’s planned protests for International Workers’ Day in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

The organization called for workers’ rights to be protected, as protesters gather to demand the lifting of restrictions on forming trade unions, the introduction of an adequate minimum wage and the reinstatement of co-workers dismissed for their trade union activities.

“The authorities must seize this historic moment of reform in Egypt and commit to protecting workers’ rights in the country,” said Amnesty International.

“The protesters’ legitimate demands are not new, but this is a fresh opportunity for the Egyptian authorities to abide by their obligations and act positively on them”.

“A first step would be to scrap the law banning strikes and to allow independent trade unions to operate freely.”

Sunday’s gathering is being planned by trade unions, political parties and women’s groups, human rights organizations as well as the “popular committees for the defence of the revolution”.

Among the triggers of the 25 January uprising in Egypt that led to the fall of former President Mubarak were calls for an end to poverty, and demands for social justice and dignity.

During 2010, thousands of protests, strikes and sit-ins were staged by Egyptian workers in both the public and private sectors, protesting the rising cost of living and demanding better wages and working conditions.

But a new law which entered into force on 12 April this year criminalizes demonstrations and strikes and places protesters at risk of imprisonment and heavy fines.

Law No. 34 of 2011 stipulates a prison sentence and a fine of up to 50,000 Egyptian Pounds (about US$8,400) for anyone who takes part in or encourages others to join a sit-in or any other activity that prevents, delays or disrupts the work of public institutions or public authorities.

If there is any violence or if protests damage public and private property, lead to the “destruction of means of production” or cause harm to “national unity and public security and order” , the fine rises to 500,000 Egyptian Pounds (about US$84,000) with at least a year’s imprisonment.

Amnesty International said that such vaguely worded provisions were in breach of international law. The right to strike is guaranteed under Article 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Egypt is a state party.

The organization said that the Egyptian authorities also have a duty to uphold the right to peaceful assembly under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The adoption of this law at a moment where people are seeking to realize their demands for more human rights and dignity and preserve the achievement of the uprising is a major setback,” said Amnesty International.

“The law stands at odds with the demands of many Egyptians and Egypt’s international human rights obligation and must be repealed immediately.”

In its Egypt: Human Rights Agenda for Change, Amnesty International calls for workers’ rights to be upheld.

Workers struggle against bureaucracy to create new unions

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Workers struggle against bureaucracy to create new unions

Fri, 29/04/2011

Jano Charbel

At least a dozen independent unions have sprung up following Egypt's 18-day uprising, forming the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions and beginning to break the state's 54-year monopoly on labor organizations.

The independent federation aims to compete with the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) as immense changes to the trade union movement are also being implemented from the top down.

The Ministry of Manpower, which oversees union activity, is currently drafting a new law governing trade unions to replace the restrictive Trade Union Act (no. 35 of 1976), which forced all Egyptian unions to organize under the umbrella of the ETUF, which was controlled by the state and the ruling party. Despite their reservations, worker advocacy groups have praised the new draft law.

Meanwhile, labor lawyers and organizers are attempting to dissolve the ETUF altogether.

The Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS), an independent NGO, is instrumental in the movement toward trade union independence. The center is filing a lawsuit against the chief of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the interim prime minister, and the interim minister of manpower, on the basis that they have failed to implement previous court rulings against ETUF electoral violations, which occurred during the nationwide trade union elections in October-November 2006.

"These authorities moved to dissolve the People's Assembly and the Shura Council on the basis that their elections were rigged, and their members were fraudulently appointed,” said Kamal Abbas, the director of the CTUWS. “The same should apply to the ETUF, as its elections were similarly rigged."

Abbas said that unions’ membership in the ETUF was obligatory. The previous ruling regime used the ETUF as a tool to mobilize workers in support of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP).

“The authorities also dissolved the NDP and placed its buildings and assets under the state's guardianship. The ETUF was an appendage of Mubarak's party, and accordingly it should be dissolved," says Abbas.

The ETUF maintains 24 general unions, 22 of which were presided over by members of the NDP, who were selected via indirect elections. Over the course of more than five decades, the ETUF has accumulated an excess of 4 million dues-paying members.

The independent federation was founded on 30 January by the few independent unions in existence at the time. It now has a membership of around 250,000 in 12 unions across the country and is rapidly growing.

"We aim to dissolve the leadership and structure of the ETUF via administrative court rulings,” says Rahma Refaat, a lawyer with the CTUWS. “We hope that the state will take control of the federation, its Workers' University, its cultural institutes, local offices, clinics, hospitals, etc, at least until new elections are held."

Ahmed Hassan al-Borai, interim Minister of Manpower, declared on 13 March that workers have the right to establish their own independent unions as long as they submit paperwork to the ministry or its local offices.

This decree has prompted the creation of unions in industries such as fishing, agriculture, and street cleaning that had not previously been unionized. Yet many workers have encountered resistance to their attempts to unionize.

Farmers in the town of Nubariya in the Delta governorate of Beheira successfully formed Egypt’s first farmer’s union on 14 April, but other groups have not had it so easy.

Shortly after the ministry’s announcement, Tharwat Ali, a small-scale farmer from the village of Zarabi in the Upper Egyptian Governorate of Beni Suef, submitted paperwork to form an independent union committee along with other farmers and agricultural workers.

“Officials at the bureau refused to accept our paperwork, and told us they weren't informed of the new policy regarding the establishment of independent trade unions," Ali says.

The Land Center for Human Rights says that local bureaus denied the establishment of 25 unions nationwide.

"I don't understand why the authorities have approved the authorization of a farmers' union in Beheira, and why they are rejecting the establishment of an identical union in Beni Suef," Ali says.

The Ministry of Manpower could not be reached for comment regarding resistance to unionization from local bureaus.

Elsewhere, Kamal Hassan, a fisherman in Nile Delta Governorate Kafr al-Sheikh is also struggling to establish an independent union. After initially facing resistance from the Bureau of Manpower in his governorate, 262 fishermen received clearance to establish the Independent Union of Fishermen in Abu Khashaba and Arab al-Gezira on 17 April.

"We've never had a union for fishermen before, so we are trying to raise awareness regarding the role of trade unions in protecting the rights of its members," says Hassan.

"Most fishermen aren't aware that unions serve to safeguard their constituents’ interests, and to improve their working conditions. We expect that many more will join us when they see the benefits of unionization," he says.

Egypt: Youth call for million-man marches for Palestine

Middle East Monitor
Egyptian youth call for million-man marches to support Palestinians

April 28, 2011

A call for "million-man" marches in support of the Palestinians has been made by Egypt's Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution. The first march, to be held in Alexandria on 13 May, will also demand the opening of the Egypt-Gaza border for food, medical and humanitarian aid; marchers will head for the Israeli Consulate in the city.

According to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk, the protests will put pressure on the Zionist state by demanding that the Egyptian government stops exporting natural gas to Israel, as the Israelis use it to produce military equipment used against Palestinians. The protesters will also call for a review of the Camp David accords to remove the inbuilt favouritism towards the Zionist state.

The youth coalition said that it will coordinate with various political groups to prepare a number of aid and medical convoys to be sent to Gaza. Care will be taken to ensure that the protests are peaceful, especially any which gravitate towards the Rafah border crossing.

There is a risk, said a spokesperson, of a confrontation between the Egyptian Army, which is protecting the national borders, and the revolutionaries. Such a confrontation would distract participants from their main objective, which is "to pressure the ruling regime in Egypt to take a decisive stance on the issue of exporting natural gas to Israel, which can be important in weakening Israeli military power".

Cairo students demonstrate against Israel

Al-Ahram Online
Cairo students demonstrate against Israel

April 27, 2011

Salma Shukrallah

Students march from Cairo University to the Israeli embassy, demanding an end to normalisation with Israel

In response to news spread about a statement made by Israeli President Shimon Peres to Israeli Radio, asking the Middle East youth — and particularly that in Egypt — to revive relations with Israel, hundreds of Cairo University students demonstrated, demanding Egypt cut all ties with Israel.

The demonstration was called by several university student groups including the Socialist Students, the Haqy Movement (My Right), Tahrir Movement, Amal Students (Labour), the Coalition of Democratic Students, and Egyptians Against Zionism. The demonstration’s ad read: “Shimon Peres has asked for normalising relations with Israel and this is how we will respond to his call in front of Israel’s embassy”.

The students gathered on Wednesday in front of Cairo University’s central dome from which they started marching through the streets of Giza towards the Israeli embassy. At the Israeli embassy the students shouted slogans, demanding an end to the Camp David Accords and against Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

A vast red banner read: “Long live the resistance … Down with complicit Arab governments,” signed by the Socialist Students. The students chanted: “The people’s first demand is to close the embassy and send back the ambassador,” and “Bring down the flag,” referring to the Israeli flag hanging from the 15-story building where the Israeli embassy is located on the last floor.

Several of the building’s inhabitants, including families and office employees, watched the demonstration from their windows. The building was surrounded by several military vehicles as well as tens of armed guards.

During Mubarak’s rule, the building where the Israeli embassy is located was highly secured by police that used to beat up or arrest protesters long before they even approached it. Since Egypt’s January 25 Revolution and the withdrawal of the Egyptian police, several demonstrations have been staged in front of the embassy condemning Israel’s occupation of Palestine and demanding an end to Egyptian relations with Israel.

Earlier on Wednesday, pipelines supplying gas to Israel and Jordan were blown up. This is the second time the pipelines have been attacked ever since the January 25 Revolution and the third time in an interval of one year. The agreement by which Egypt sells gas to Israel has long been criticised and legally challenged. Israel enjoys well below market prices for gas from Egypt. The current interim government has promised to reexamine the agreement.

Students chanted in the demonstration against the gas agreement and called for a march on 15 May, planned in memory of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), marking the forced expulsion by Zionist militias of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Palestine in 1948.

In what looks like an attempt to improve Israel’s popularity among the Egyptian youth, the Israeli embassy in Cairo has created a Twitter account through which it posts Israeli achievements in Arabic.

Egyptian gas pipeline to Israel bombed

Agence France Presse
Saboteurs bomb Egypt gas pipeline to Israel, Jordan

April 27, 2011

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Saboteurs bombed an Egyptian gas pipeline in the Sinai on Wednesday, sending flames shooting into the sky and cutting supplies to Israel and Jordan.

It was the second attack since February and came two weeks after Egypt's new government decided to review all contracts to supply gas abroad, including to neighbours Israel and Jordan, amid corruption probes.

Officials said the attack took place at dawn near Al-Sabil village in the El-Arish region.

On March 27, exactly a month earlier, six armed men stormed the gas terminal in the northern Sinai town and placed explosive devices which failed to explode.

Wednesday's bomb was activated remotely, a security official told AFP, while the state-run MENA news agency reported flames as high as 20 metres (65 feet) shooting from the ruptured pipeline.

MENA said armed forces rushed to the scene and quoted locals as saying they heard a "huge" explosion followed by a massive fireball.

There were no reports of casualties.

Several hours later, Gasco, the company responsible for the pipeline, said the fire had been brought under control.

MENA quoted Gasco president Majdi Tewfik as saying a technical committee was tasked with evaluating the damage.

The agency also quoted a security official as saying increased security measures would be implemented in the area, as witnesses said there had been little security presence at the time of the explosion.

Israel's National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau told army radio there would be no immediate impact on supply.

Asked if he expected a shortage that would result in electricity cuts, he said: "No. There is still a certain amount of gas in the pipeline which we can use.

"After that, the electricity board must find alternatives by using gas from Yam Tethys or by using coal or fuel oil," he said, referring to Israel's existing gas field, which is on the verge of being depleted.

Amos Gilad, a senior official at Israel's defence ministry, told public radio it is "essential for the Egyptian government to follow a clear policy to ensure the provision of gas and to maintain the peace accord."

"The situation is very delicate, the only possible policy is to rely on the Egyptians," he added.

Jordan's Energy Minister Khaled Tuqan confirmed Egyptian gas supplies had been halted after the attack. "Power stations are now depending on heavy fuel and diesel to generate electricity," he said.

But he warned Jordan now has only "enough supplies of heavy fuel and diesel for two weeks." A previous disruption in February cost the Jordan economy some $4.2 million a day, Tuqan said at the time.

Jordan imports about 240 million cubic feet (6.8 million cubic metres) of Egyptian gas a day, or 80 percent of its electricity needs.

Egypt supplies an estimated 40 percent of Israel's gas requirements.

Earlier this month, Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf called for a revision of all gas deals contracted by the ousted regime of president Hosni Mubarak, MENA reported on April 13.

The contracts are to be revisited so the gas "would be sold with deserved prices that achieve the highest returns for Egypt," MENA said.

A sweeping probe into corruption has been launched under the ruling military council which took power when Mubarak was ousted on February 11 following anti-regime protests.

Judicial sources said Saturday that two former Egyptian oil ministers -- Sameh Fahmi and Mahmud Latif -- will face trial for selling natural gas to Israel at below-market prices.

Israel's Landau dismissed allegations the Jewish state underpaid for natural gas supplies as "not at all" true.

Wednesday's pipeline attack is the second explosion since February 5 -- six days before popular uprisings forced Mubarak from power. Gas supplies to Israel and Jordan resumed on March 16.

Israel said at the time that it would step up plans for an offshore platform for importing liquefied natural gas.

Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.

Bedouins, who complain of routine harassment and discrimination, threatened in June last year to attack the pipeline, security officials said.

Egypt court: Remove Mubarak name from public places

BBC News
Egypt court: Remove Mubarak name from public places

April 21, 2001

A court in Egypt has ruled that the names of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his wife Suzanne be removed from all public places.

Hundreds of public squares, streets, libraries and schools across Egypt are named after the couple.

Mr Mubarak's 29 years in power ended with his resignation in February after weeks of mass anti-government protests.

The 82-year-old is currently under arrest at a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

He is due to be questioned about allegations of corruption and alleged violence against protesters during the popular uprising.

Egypt's state news agency Mena reported on Thursday that his health is "unstable".


Portraits of the former president have already been taken down at public institutions across the country.

Ordering the same to be done for the Mubarak name, Judge Mohammed Hassan Omar said: "It has become clear that the size of the corruption that's being uncovered every day exceeds by far anyone's imagination."

After the ruling, the transport minister said the Mubarak name would be removed from all ministry facilities, including a major underground station in central Cairo.

There are suggestions for streets to be renamed after the people who were killed in the recent anti-government protests, the BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo reports.

An Egyptian government fact-finding panel reported recently that at least 846 people were killed and 6,400 were injured during the 18 days of protests earlier this year.

The mission - consisting of a panel of judges - said security forces fired live ammunition, placed snipers on rooftops and used vehicles to run over protesters.

Mr Mubarak's two sons are among a growing number of ministers and officials from his ruling circle who are also facing investigation.

*Read also:
Al-Arabiya - Chapters praising Mubarak regime removed from Egyptian textbooks

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Egypt: Investigate Security Forces' Crimes Now

Egypt: Investigate security forces crimes now

April 20, 2011

Members of the security forces that have for decades brutally repressed Egyptians must be held to account, Amnesty International said today as it released a damning report into the use of emergency powers under former President Hosni Mubarak.

In Time for Justice: Egypt's Corrosive System of Detention, Amnesty International calls for the immediate establishment of an independent inquiry into human rights abuses committed by the much-feared State Security Investigations Service (SSI).

"Under the cover of the state of emergency, President Mubarak’s state security forces were for years allowed to commit gross violations without fear of scrutiny or punishment," said Amnesty International.

“This is a moment for fundamental change,” said Amnesty International. “It demands immediate concrete steps from the authorities so that those responsible for serious human rights violations are held to account.”

“Egyptians must see justice done for the human rights abuses of the past.”

The organization said it was prepared to make its archive of human rights reports available to the Egyptian authorities to assist with an investigation.

On 15 March, following mass protests, the Interior Ministry announced that the SSI had been abolished, and that a new national security body would be established in its place.

But no details have been given as to what will happen to SSI officers, whether any will be subject to investigation and whether any vetting system was put in place for their integration in the police force.

Amnesty International also called for the 30-year-old state of emergency to be ended immediately, and said that all provisions of the Emergency Law must be repealed.

In recent weeks, Amnesty International has documented the continuing use of torture, arbitrary detention, trials of civilians before military courts and repression of freedom of expression by authorities.

After the army violently cleared Tahrir Square of demonstrators on 9 March, women protesters told Amnesty International that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.

“The uniforms may have changed but we have seen the same patterns of abuse continue,” said Amnesty International. “Accountability for past crimes is essential to send out a clear message that violations will no longer to be tolerated.”

SSI officers used administrative detention to hold people who were critical of the Egyptian authorities, human rights activists and criminal suspects for as long as they wanted and without intent to prosecute them in a criminal trial.

The authorities have never disclosed how many people were held in administrative detention. National and international human rights organizations estimated the number in the last years of Mubarak's rule to be between 6,000 and 10,000.

In the hundreds of cases that Amnesty International has examined, detainees were never informed of the reason for their arrest, many were not allowed to contact the outside world or have legal assistance, and some disappeared for months.

Torture of detainees was routine, including electric shocks, beatings, suspension, whipping and sleep deprivation.

52-year-old Mohamed Abu Essaoud Ismail was one of many people held for up to 20 years.

He was arrested in 1991 for alleged membership of Gamaa al-Islamiya, at that time an armed Islamist group. His family knew nothing of what had happened to him until 1998.

He was only released in February this year after the fall of President Mubarak. He had been tortured and denied adequate medical care for long-term health problems.

In May 2010 the Egyptian authorities said that administrative detention would only be used to prevent terrorism or drug-related crime and limited the application of the Emergency Law accordingly. In fact they have persistently used emergency powers to stifle freedom of expression and assembly and to repress peaceful political opposition.

Human rights activist Musaad Abu Fagr was released in July 2010 after two and a half years in administrative detention despite 21 court orders for his release.

Following the fall of President Mubarak, a newly-installed Interior Minister announced on 12 March 2011 that 1,659 administrative detainees had been released since early February. But it is unknown how many people remain in detention.

Amnesty International called for victims of human rights violations to receive reparations, including financial compensation and guarantees that there will be fundamental reform.

“The authorities cannot expect to simply sweep the past under the carpet without addressing the needs of the victims of years of ruthless repression,” said Amnesty International.

“They have an obligation to tell their victims why they were victimised and who was responsible for their ordeal.”

Women Press For A Voice In The New Egypt

Women Press For A Voice In The New Egypt

April 19, 2011

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

For the first time in Egyptian history, a woman is running for president.

Buthayna Kamel's candidacy in elections expected later this year is the result of the youth uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak and his ruling party.

Still, many Egyptian women say they feel shut out of the new government that is emerging. They worry that unless they take bold steps, women will end up with less political clout in the new Egypt than they had under Mubarak.


In her flowing black robe, Kamel looks like a traditional Egyptian woman. In reality, she is anything but.

The 49-year-old talk show host turned presidential candidate is on the campaign trail. She recently held a town hall gathering outside the main library in Egypt's famous southern city of Luxor. Not long ago, a gathering for people to vent their frustrations about the government — let alone discuss Kamel's presidential aspirations — would have been impossible.

In the past, only candidates approved by Mubarak and rubber-stamped by his Parliament could run. Egyptians were convinced Mubarak was grooming his son, Gamal, to take over once he retired.

But today, Kamel and other Egyptians are looking forward to what they hope will be a real presidential race with grassroots campaigns.

Still, the candidate says she fears that at some point, Egyptians will tell her and other women who want a say, "Thanks for working with us to overthrow the regime, but now it's time for you to go home."

There is cause for her concern. Participants in last month's International Women's Day march to Tahrir Square in Cairo were attacked by men on the street. And some activists complain the emerging leaders in post-revolutionary Egypt are ignoring women's issues because they associate the topic with the old regime and its Western allies.


During his tenure, Mubarak introduced quotas that filled scores of Parliament seats with women, while his wife headed a powerful women's council. The international community also poured money into programs aimed at improving the status of women.

But critics say that was little more than window dressing aimed at shoring up Western support and ensuring Egyptian obedience to his regime.

"You've had relatively powerful women's national councils, you've had a relatively vibrant NGO development scene with an awful lot of women's representation and so the question really becomes: What has that meant for questions of social and economic justice in particular and who were, actually, these actors?" says Martina Rieker, an associate dean at American University in Cairo who heads the Institute for Gender and Women's Studies.

Nawal El Saadawi has similar concerns. She is one of Egypt's best-known feminists. The 80-year-old author and psychiatrist adds that Egypt's current military rulers were part of Mubarak's regime.

"When the revolution succeeded and we came back home, we opened the newspaper [and] we found women excluded by the military and by the new temporary government," she says. "They appointed the people in charge of the provinces, the muhafezeen — not a single woman. There was not a single woman in the committee for changing the constitution. Every day we found women are not there."


But Saadawi says the solution isn't necessarily fielding female candidates in the upcoming elections. Instead, she wants women's groups to unite and do exactly what the youth did in the uprising that toppled Mubarak.

"Women should be in the street in millions," she says. "If women ... make a march with all their demands, this is the pressure."

Activist Mozn Hassan says defining the women's rights agenda in Egyptian terms is also key. She says she learned that on March 8, when she took part in the International Women's Day march that came under attack.

"No one is excusing sexual harassment, but at the same time at this day people were protesting ... for sectarian rights and students were striking in the universities asking for their rights, and some of the people thought that it was more important for the society and for the political movement to see women with them," Hassan says.

Hassan heads a nongovernmental organization called Nazra for Feminist Studies, which is helping more than a dozen young women who are known in their communities to run for office later this year. She says even if they win, it won't break Egypt's formidable gender barriers.

But she hopes to lay a foundation for a strong women's rights movement that can have a say in the new Egypt.

"I don't know, maybe I'm crazy, but I still have hope," she says.

*Photos by AP, NPR, and AFP

Egypt: At least 846 protesters killed

Associated Press
Egypt: At least 846 killed in protests

April 19, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — At least 846 Egyptians died in the nearly three-week-long popular uprising that toppled long-serving President Hosni Mubarak, electrifying the region, a government fact-finding mission announced Tuesday.

In their report, the panel of judges described police forces shooting protesters in the head and chest with live ammunition and presented a death toll more than twice that of previous official estimates.

"The fatal shots were due to firing bullets at the head and the chest," the report read, adding that "a huge number of eye injures," filled hospitals, and hundreds lost their sight.

Earlier official estimates put out by a Mubarak associate had put the toll from the days of demonstrations, in which protesters battled heavily armed legions of riot police, at 365, but local groups had put the figure much higher.

The mission held Mubarak ultimately responsible for the killing of the protesters since his interior minister, Habib el-Adly, had issued the orders to open fire.

According to Omar Marwan, the head of the commission, the report is based on accounts of 17,058 officials and eyewitnesses along with 800 video clips and pictures obtained from individuals who were present at the protests.

Mubarak was forced to step down on Feb. 11 by massive demonstrations against his three decades in power. One of the protesters' chief complaints was the corruption pervasive in the government, its bureaucracy and virtually all levels of society.

Mubarak and his sons were placed in custody April 13 for 15 days while they are investigated over allegations of corruption and their role in the shooting of protesters.

Mubarak has remained in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh until he can be transferred to a military hospital. He was hospitalized with unspecified heart problems on Tuesday, the same day his questioning began.

Along with the president's sons, most of Mubarak's associates are in Tora prison, south of the capital, over allegations related to corruption and violence against protesters.

On Tuesday, the health and labor ministers were questioned over corruption and the day before prosecutors spoke to former Vice President Omar Suleiman about Mubarak's wealth and activities during the protests.

Among the mission's conclusions, was confirmation that policemen commandeered a U.S. embassy vehicle and used it to run over protesters on Feb. 2, the same day horses and camels charged demonstrators in Tahrir square.

The report did not conclusively identify the causes of the yet unexplained withdrawal of the police from the streets in Cairo and elsewhere in the country following deadly clashes between security forces and protesters on Jan. 28.

It, however, offered various explanations for the escape of thousands of inmates from 11 of the country's 41 prisons. These included hard core criminals who fueled a surge in crime that endures to this day.

The commission found evidence to suggest that, in some cases, security officials orchestrated the prison breaks to destabilize the country in the face of the growing mass protests. In other cases, armed groups stormed the prisons by demolishing the fences and walls, using bulldozers.

According to some video clips obtained by the commission, men in police uniform were filmed urging prisoners to flee. Other video clips showed prisoners carrying their belongings while leaving their prisons, suggesting that they had been given advance notice that they could leave.

In one prison, Wadi el-Natroun, prisoners told the commission that the prison guards cut water and electricity supplies days before, suggesting that the administration forced the prisoners to stage riots and escape.

Others testified that the guards fired in the air and used tear gas to terrorize prisoners and force them to flee.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Egypt Will See This Revolution Through
Egypt will see this revolution through

April 15, 2011

Amira Nowaira

If there is one feature that would best describe the popular uprising in Egypt that turned into a full-fledged revolution it is sheer perseverance. Since the start of protests on 25 January and even after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak on 11 February, Egyptians have been demanding that Mubarak and his men be prosecuted and justice be served.

Dogged determination has kept protesters going back to Tahrir Square and other parts of the country in massive numbers to make their demands heard. On Friday 8 April, a popular mock trial of Mubarak took place in Tahrir, with an estimated 1.5 million people filling the square. The protesters vowed to move en masse to Sharm El Sheikh on Friday 15 April, if their demands were not met.

But before the prospective march could take place, the news finally came of the detention of Hosni Mubarak and his two sons along with a large number of his top aides for investigation. The charges included the misuse of power, the embezzlement of public funds and the murder of protesters. Wednesday 13 April was a day of high drama. But more importantly, it was the day that perseverance and sacrifices paid off.

Protesters have been vehemently calling on the ruling military council to prosecute members of the old regime, who were accused of sponsoring acts of thuggery and spreading chaos in the country. There was evidence that some of them were also involved in conspiring against protesters in the famous incident dubbed "Battle of the Camel" on 2 February, when paid thugs riding camels and horses charged into Tahrir Square.

The scene was both farcical and tragic, and it left a number of protesters dead and injured. There was widespread anger that these instigators were not promptly brought to justice. The ruling military council seemed to drag its heels. No serious action was undertaken until the recent mass arrests and investigations, which eased to some extent the mounting tensions between the people and the military.

The military council, however, will need to take urgent steps to restore people's confidence in it and avoid possible future confrontation. There were allegations of torture by members of the military police and videos showing a violent crackdown on protesters during the small hours of 9 April. The military promised to investigate the incidents but so far nothing has happened.

More worrying was the trial of Maikel Nabil, a blogger who collected pictures and videos posted on the internet and included them in his blog critical of the military. He was sentenced by a military court to three years in prison, to the huge dismay of the blogosphere which regarded this incident as the first instance of free speech violation in post-revolution Egypt. Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations have urged the military to overturn the sentence but with little success until now.

Another fierce battle of wills is also taking place concerning the nature of the political system that would replace the old authoritarian regime. Both the Islamists and the liberals are testing out their views and gauging their strengths in public, perhaps for the first time. While the liberals seem to have little popular base and need to expand their reach to other social segments, the Islamists don't seem to have won the minds and hearts of ordinary Egyptians lately. Some highly publicised media reports involving Salafis made them hugely unpopular on the street. When some Salafis were reported to have attacked and destroyed holy shrines, which they regard as places of idol worship, there was a huge outcry against them by ordinary Egyptians.

The most prominent Islamist faction, the Muslim Brotherhood, has lately lost a great deal of its credibility by allying itself too closely with the Salafis. At university student union elections carried out in the past week the Mulsim Brotherhood secured no more than 16% of the contested places on average.

In the past, the rigging of student elections was a routine practice under the pretext that a fair election would definitely lead to an Islamist takeover of universities. This was proven wrong. If general parliamentary elections were to be carried out fairly and without rigging or vote-buying, Islamist movements might not score much higher. But will there be the political will to ensure the fairness of the electoral process? That is the fundamental question to ask.

Egypt also does not exist in a vacuum. Both regional and world powers have vested interests in it. Autocratic regimes in the neighbourhood are battling the frightening spectre of democracy in Egypt because a democratic model might directly threaten their very existence. They are looking with increasing apprehension at the events unfolding in Egypt.

International powers that had counted on the longevity of the Mubarak regime had neither the vision nor the will to change their policies. These powers are all worried that a new order may not be as friendly or as compliant as the old one. And despite all their proclamations of support for the transition to democracy in Egypt, they may resort to various means to stop the process of change or at least attempt to channel it in such a way as to maintain the situation in the old mode.

But as the battle over Egypt's soul continues, nobody can underestimate the enormous challenges facing Egypt's march towards democracy. Nevertheless, we only need to remember that Mubarak was toppled in spite of his brutal security apparatus and the vast support of regional and international powers. But fall he did. And the catalyst of change was the sheer perseverance of ordinary Egyptians. Their courage in the face of bullets and tear gas was simply a tribute to human tenacity.

There are no signs that this resolve is waning. If anything, it seems to be growing stronger. In the fight of wills, it is perhaps this spirit of perseverance that will ultimately win the day, the speck of light at the end of an otherwise very shadowy tunnel.

*Photograph - Str/EPA: Egyptian protesters outside the Sharm el Sheikh International Hospital where Hosni Mubarak was admitted. Photograph:

Labor activists organize despite legal hurdles

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Labor activists organize despite legal hurdles
Fri, 15/04/2011

Jano Charbel

Egypt has not had a workers' party since the 1940s, but, like many other things the revolution has revived, these entities are coming back to life.

Over the past five years, workers and labor activists nationwide have loudly advocated for the establishment of a workers' party and now they are organizing groups including the Democratic Workers' Party, the Revolutionary Workers' Coalition, and the Popular Coalition Party.

Numerous groups have adopted the "workers’ party" or "labor party" label since the 1920s, but their platforms, constituencies and leaders have either not been genuinely labor-based, or have been led by vanguards rather than workers.

Yet establishing a genuine labor party may be more difficult than ever given the legal restrictions imposed by the provisions of the interim constitution, and the new Political Parties Law issued on 29 March. Under these laws, the establishment of class-based parties is strictly prohibited.

Nonetheless, thousands of workers and labor activists are struggling to overcome these restrictions to establish a party which democratically represents their interests.

Activist Kamal Khalil, who plays a pivotal role in the establishment of the Democratic Workers’ Party, questioned the new legal restrictions.

Khalil, an engineer and the leader of the Revolutionary Socialists group, told Al-Masry Al-Youm, "Workers' parties are allowed for by law in countries around the world, and they have had a major historical influence in the democratic politics of states including the UK and Brazil, among countless others."

"I don't know how the authorities will react to the (de facto) establishment of a class-based party, but then again we're not too concerned about that. We don't want a party based on paper, we want a party based in factories and workplaces," he said.

He pointed to new legal hurdles to forming a party, including the requirement of letters of notarization from at least 5,000 members in different governorates across the country. Under the previous Political Parties Law (Law no. 40 of 1977), only 50 founding members were required to establish a party.

"Whether or not the law allows it, we shall continue to work toward the establishment of the Democratic Workers' Party,” he said. “Striking workers across Egypt have, since December 2006, been demanding the establishment of a party which represents them, and which protects their interests."

The engineer explained that party membership is open to anyone who labors for a wage in the public, private or informal sectors regardless of whether they are professionals, small businessmen, farmers, students, pensioners or unemployed.

Hundreds have joined the party including textile workers from the Nile Delta cities of Mahalla, Tanta and Kafr al-Dawwar, Real Estate Tax Authority employees, cement factory workers, railroad workers and nurses, as well as bus drivers, conductors, mechanics, and engineers employed at the Public Transport Authority.

The Democratic Workers' Party is currently said to have some 1000 members across Egypt, primarily from Greater Cairo and the Nile Delta. Its draft program includes demands for radical agricultural reforms, rent/lease controls on farmlands, and governmental subsidies for seeds.

Despite its grassroots agenda, numerous claims of 'vanguardism' have been leveled against the party, with skeptics saying it represents the interests of socialist intellectuals rather than workers. Responding to these claims Khalil said "if this was a vanguard’s party we would've named it the Socialist Labor Party, or the Communist Workers' Party, and its agenda would have been geared toward revolutionary socialism rather than reform."

Khalil said "…we want to engage workers in political life. We want the laboring classes to join the political scene. Our goal is to support a more active role for workers and farmers in the revolution. We want a popular party, not a party led by socialist intellectuals."

Kamal al-Fayyoumy, a labor-activist and textile worker at state-owned Egyptian Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla, is another founding member of the Democratic Workers' Party. According to al-Fayyoumy

"We are coordinating with others to establish a nationwide minimum wage of LE1200 (around $US200) per month, to establish trade unions independent of state control, and to improve working conditions in all companies and factories," he said.

Workers in Mahalla are struggling to have privatized companies, including the Omar Effendi chain of department stores, Indorama Shebin Textile Company, Tanta Flax & Oils Company, cement companies, and others, return to the Egyptian public sector, he said.

Al-Fayyoumy also pointed to the draft program of the Democratic Workers' Party, which calls for combating administrative corruption and reevaluating Egypt’s economic ties to Israel including gas exports and Qualified Industrial Zones.

The Revolutionary Workers' Coalition is another fledgling labor organization.

Socialist activist Fatma Ramadan, a labor organizer and industrial safety inspector at Giza's Manpower Bureau, is one of the leaders of the coalition.

"We are not seeking party-status, but rather coordination among workers, farmers, NGOs and parties for the realization of the rights of all laborers, regardless of their political affiliations" said Ramadan.

The Revolutionary Workers' Coalition convened for it preparatory conference on 8 April, and issued a statement of basic principles. Their statement calls for the revolution to uphold social justice and protect workers’ rights to strike, to establish independent unions, and to earn a monthly minimum wage of LE1200, with the maximum salary for administrators not more than ten times the minimum wage

Ramadan said the coalition is not competing with the Democratic Workers' Party and advocated cooperation among labor groups.

In March, the Islamic Labor Party, a conservative-populist group whose activities had been halted by the former regime since May 2000, was also authorized to resume its work. The party was established in 1986 as the successor to the so-called Socialist Labor Party (established in 1978), and the fascist-leaning Young Egypt Party (established in 1933).

Representatives of another labor group, the Popular Coalition Party, could not be reached for comment on their objectives and efforts.

Press freedom setback in Egypt
Press freedom setback in Egypt
April 14, 2011

There is frustration in Egypt at the pace of change following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, who is now in detention along with his sons.

And there are also troubling signs of renewed threats to press freedom. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed concern about the Egyptian military's demand that local print media obtain approval for any mention of the armed forces before publication.

A letter sent to editors by the director of the "morale affairs directorate" of the Egyptian military ordered them not to "publish any (topics, news, statements, complaints, advertisements, pictures) pertaining to the armed forces or to commanders of the armed forces without first consulting with the Morale Affairs Directorate and the Directorate of Military Intelligence and Information Gathering."

The letter's content has not been reported in Egyptian publications, but the regime of censorship has been noted by bloggers.

In another example of the serious setback for press freedom in Egypt, a military court in Cairo has sentenced blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad to three years in prison for "insulting the military".

He was arrested on 28 March soon after writing an article in which he criticised the military for not being transparent in its decision-making.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blogger gets 3 years in jail for 'insulting military'

Los Angeles Times
EGYPT: Blogger gets three years in jail for 'insulting the military'

April 11, 2011

In the first such case since the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak, an Egyptian blogger has been sentenced to three years in jail by a military court for “insulting the military” and “disturbing public security.”

Maikel Nabil Sanad was arrested March 28 after writing on a blog that “he was providing evidence proving that the military has been deceiving Egyptians” during and after the 18-day revolt that started Jan. 25 and ended with Mubarak’s ouster. A military council of top generals now runs the country.

Human rights advocates expressed puzzlement at Sanad’s sentence, especially after his lawyers were assured on Sunday that his judgment wouldn't be announced until Tuesday. But late Sunday he was discreetly found guilty and sentenced to jail.

“Such an act raises suspicions and doubts about the fairness of the court which tried Nabil. Not only because it is a military court judging a civilian for expressing his opinion, but also the way his hearings were carried out,” said a statement by the Arab Network for Human Rights Information.

“Nabil’s freedom was stolen ... not only by the military court but also by a number of Egyptian newspapers, who are hypocritical regarding the ruling military council and refuse to publish any news about the military’s violations.” The statement added.

Human Rights Watch condemned Sanad’s arrest and called on the Egyptian military to drop all the charges against him. Adding the word "never" to a popular saying adopted by Egyptians to show appreciation for the army’s role in overthrowing Mubarak, Sanad titled his blog, “The army and the people have never been one hand.”

The 25-year-old activist wrote that “the army supplied police forces with extra ammunition to shoot protesters on Jan. 28,” adding that “the military later put protesters in Tahrir Square under siege and attempted to forcibly evacuate the demonstrations more than once.”

Sanad wrote that it was the military that started detaining a number of bloggers and activists during the revolt, including him. On Feb. 4, he said he was taken to a military camp and beaten by army soldiers before his release two days later.

According to his blog, the military has fronted a pro-revolution stance but its true intent is to abort the ideals of the movement. Arresting and jailing bloggers had been a trend during Mubarak’s era; nonetheless, Sanad’s conviction is an unprecedented one that raises concerns about the safety of opinion writers and activists under the Supreme Military Council’s rule.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Maikel Nabil Sanad. Credit:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Revolution Continues in Tahrir Square, April 10

On April 10, a day after the army's fatal raid on peaceful protesters in Tahrir, demonstrations took place throughout the day and night within the barricaded square. Angry protesters chanted slogans demanding the prosecution of Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Chief of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, for the assault and murder of Tahrir's revolutionaries.

Tahrir Square was sealed off to all traffic - so as to safeguard the peaceful protesters from the attacks of the army, military police and central security forces.

Effigy of Tantawi hangs from a traffic-light post in Tahrir. Tantawi, Mubarak's loyalist Minister of Defense for 20 years, has shielded the fallen dictator from trial, while his military junta has placed thousands of Egyptian civilians on trial before military tribunals - and continues to do so.

"Experience the revolution" graffiti in Tahrir Square.

Young protesters marching through the square while chanting slogans calling for the trials of Mubarak and Tantawi.

Good advice from this revolutionary street artist.

Tens of thousands of activists, and curious passersby, converged on Tahrir throughout the day and night.

Young activist sits on top of the remains of his PA speakers, sound controllers, and mixer. According to the disappointed youth "Tantawi's army destroyed my equipment here, it was worth over LE 50,000" (more than $US 8,300.)

Twelve year old boy, clubbed in the face by army troops. His swollen eye, and the numerous stitches in his face, indicate the indiscriminate brutality of Tantawi's armed forces. Tantawi's military council ordered the beatings of all in the square - men, women, children and the elderly.

Shortly after the curfew came into effect at 2am, [April 9] the army opened fire intensely in the air, while at least one protester was killed by their live ammunition. Activist report that at least two (if not seven) were shot, stabbed with bayonets, or beaten to death. Several arrests were also reported. This violence on the part of the armed forces and Central Security Forces led to the torching of two army lorries, and a small bus.

This small bus, said to be carrying army personnel at the time of their assault, was torched. Its remains are being used as a makeshift garbage can.

"The Corruption Movie - Part 2. Starring the Field Marshall" reads the graffiti on the side panels of this burnt-down army lorry.

This other (smashed-up and burnt-down) army lorry is being used as a barricade/defensive barrier.

Egypt: Army kills at least 1 protester in Tahrir, over 70 injured

Associated Press
Protesters mass in growing confrontation with Egypt’s ruling military after raid kills 1

April 9, 2011

CAIRO — Thousands of demonstrators barricaded themselves in Cairo’s central square with burned-out troop carriers and barbed wire Saturday and demanded the removal of the military council ruling Egypt, infuriated after soldiers stormed their protest camp overnight, killing at least one person and injuring 71 others.

In a sign the confrontation could escalate, the military warned Saturday evening that it will clear Tahrir Square of protesters “with all force and decisiveness” for life to get back to normal.

The warning could presage a repeat of the scene before dawn, when hundreds of soldiers, including a highly trained parachute unit, swarmed into Tahrir Square, firing in the air and beating protesters with clubs and shocking some with electrical batons. Troops dragged away protesters, while others staggered away bleeding from beatings and gunshot wounds. Witnesses reported two killed, though the Health Ministry insisted there was only one death.

“It was like a horror movie,” said Mohammed Yehia, an activist and university student from the Nile Delta who was among the protesters.

The confrontation marks a dangerous juncture in Egypt’s three months of upheaval.

When longtime president Hosni Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11 after 18 days of mass demonstrations against his authoritarian rule, protesters hugged and kissed soldiers on tanks in Tahrir Square, praising them for protecting their “revolution.” Most welcomed the handover of power to the Armed Forces’ Supreme Council, a body of top generals headed by Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

In the weeks since, tensions have rised. Protest leaders have been critical of the military council’s handling of the post-Mubarak transition and the public has been angered by its failure to prosecute the former president. But both sides also worked to stay on good terms.

The overnight clashes resembled the ugliest moments of the 18-day protest movement against Mubarak — with authorities cracking down violently and protesters chanting for the leader’s removal. The violence only fed accusations among some protesters that the military — especially Tantawi, a longtime Mubarak loyalist — was only trying to preserve the ousted president’s regime.

Soldiers detained 42 youth protesters including a British and a German national in the raid, said human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Ansari, and they now face military tribunals for violating military bans on gatherings.The military said that eight others with military uniform were arrested, in reference to the dissenting army officers who joined the Friday protest.

The protest movement appeared deeply divided over how to react. Some demanded protesters push ahead with the confrontation with the military, while others warned a conflict with the army — Egypt’s most powerful institution — would be disastrous for the movement, saying some form of coexistence must be found.

Democracy advocate Mohammed ElBaradei, whose supporters were among those who organized the wave of anti-Mubarak protests, said in a Twitter message that “dialogue is the only alternative.” He said “confidence between the people and army” must be preserved “for the sake of the nation.”

Egypt’s largest Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood, also warned against any attempt to cause divisions between the people and the army, calling them “one hand.”

Anger flared at a press conference held at Cairo’s Journalist Syndicate, where representatives of various political parties and movements tried and failed to produce a joint statement on the night’s events.

Amr Hamzawy, co-founder of a new liberal political party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, called for all sides to exercise “extreme measures of restraint,” warning of “organized” attempts to cause conflicts with the military.

But Khaled Abdel-Hamid, a member of the coalition of youth activists that organized the anti-Mubarak campaign, denounced a series of incidents of excessive use of force by the military against protesters.

“Now there is blood between the people and the armed forces. This happened three times, why are they not prosecuting those responsible for it,” Abdel-Hamid said, sparking shouting matches among some defending the military and others demanding the “killers” be put on trial.

Back in Tahrir Square, several thousand protesters, some armed with sticks and other makeshift weapons, vowed not to leave until Tantawi resigns.

Black smoke rose as protesters set fire to three vehicles in the square, including two troop carriers. The square was filled with shattered glass, stones, and debris in a scene reminiscent of the anti-Mubarak protests. 11. The glass storefront of a KFC on the square was also smashed — only weeks after it was repaired from damage during the earlier unrest.

“We are staging a sit-in until the field marshal is prosecuted,” said Anas Esmat, a 22-year-old university student, as protesters dragged debris and barbed wire to seal off streets.

“Tantawi is Mubarak and Mubarak is Tantawi,” some chanted.

The military’s heavy crackdown appeared prompted in part by the presence in Tahrir of around 25 army officers who joined the protesters and were denouncing the military’s leadership, saying Mubarak was continuing to rule through Tantawi and the other generals. In a public statement Saturday, one of the officers demanded the dissolving of the Supreme Council, its replacement by a presidential council and the prosecution of those behind the killing of protesters.

The military blamed the turmoil on “thugs” who violated the country’s 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

In a press conference, military council member Gen. Adel Amara depicted the protesters as outlaws who had attacked the army. He said protesters were carrying Molotov cocktails and two automatic weapons and that they attacked army vehicles. He suggested that the dissident army officers in the protest camp were actually prisoners, saying the protesters tied up “people in military uniforms” to exchange for detained protesters. He confirmed that one protester was killed, with a bullet in the face, but said it was not clear who shot him.

“The armed forces are a line that cannot be crossed,” he said. “The protesters kept on occupying Tahrir Square, hindering citizens’ business, which shows they don’t belong to the honorable Jan. 25 youth,” referring to the protest movement that ousted Mubarak.

The pre-dawn raid came after tens of thousands of Egyptians massed in Tahrir Square on Friday in one of the biggest rallies in weeks, demanding the military prosecute Mubarak and his family for corruption that permeated his nearly 29-year regime.

At around 3 a.m. on Saturday, hundreds of soldiers backed by armored vehicles swept into the square, firing heavy barrages into the air with automatic weapons and pounding transparent shields to intimidate protesters camped out in the center. The troops waded into the tent camp, where protesters had formed a human cordon to protect the dissident army officers.

Yehia, the university student activist, described how a friend of his ripped off his shirt and stood between protesters and the soldiers, chanting “peaceful, peaceful” until soldiers beat him with clubs and electric batons, leaving him covered in bruises. Soldiers kicked and beat another man who had fallen to the ground, he said.

Ali Mustafa, a car mechanic who was guarding the “free soldiers” tent, said he saw an attacking soldier stab one of the officers to death with his bayonet. He pointed to a section of pavement stained with blood under a small pile of garbage and food remains. Witnesses reported that two of the 25 officers were arrested by the soldiers but others escaped.

Another protester was shot dead, said Ahmed Gamal, who said he helped carry away the body. The deaths could not be confirmed.

The Health Ministry issued a statement saying only one person was killed and 71 wounded, some of them with gunshot wounds, including three in critical condition.

Witnesses said the troops beat protesters with batons, fists and kicks and dragged protesters away and threw them into police trucks. Near the famed Egyptian Museum, which overlooks the square, protesters trying to flee were blocked by soldiers, who hit them and knocked them down.

Anger at the military has grown amid reports of military abuse against detained protesters — including a blogger who campagined against army abuse and was arrested and tortured by the military in past weeks.

The failure to prosecute Mubarak and his family has stoked the most anger, touted by some as a sign that Tantawi and the other generals are protecting the former president. Prosecutors have put on trial or started investigations against a string of former senior figures from Mubarak’s regime on allegations of corruption, exploiting their positions to amass personal fortunes and other crimes.

Since his ouster, Mubarak and his family have been under house arrest at a presidential palace in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, their assets frozen.

In a new gesture, the council late Saturday announced a shake-up of some provincial governors and that all offices of the former ruling party were ordered seized.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Army & police forcefully disperse Tahrir protest

Clashes erupt around Cairo's Tahrir Square

09 Apr 2011

Evan Hill

Protesters retake iconic square, hours after security forces moved in to break up crowd demanding Mubarak's trial.

Hundreds of protesters demanding that Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president, be put on trial for alleged corruption, have retaken Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, hours after security forces attempted to disperse them.

By 7am (local time) on Saturday morning, army and central security troops appeared to have withdrawn, leaving the square to protesters who set vehicles on fire and began setting up barricades made of furniture and left-behind barbed wire.

Hundreds of army and security forces troops had stormed the square earlier, in an attempt to disperse the thousands of protesters.

In scenes reminiscent of the violent 18-day uprising that ousted longtime President Mubarak in February, protesters and riot police threw rocks at each other, and security forces responded by firing tear gas, witnesses said.

Groups of protesters rallying around the southeast corner of the square threw bottles and possibly petrol firebombs at riot police, Michelle May, a freelance journalist, told Al Jazeera.

One of the main roads running east from Tahrir Square towards Talaat Harb Square was virtually empty, and gunfire seemed to have subsided, a witness said.

The military in a statement released through the state MENA news agency, said that security forces were attempting to enforce a 2am to 5am (local time) curfew.

"Elements from the interior ministry along with some noble citizens confronted the riotous actions and enforced the curfew without any losses," the statement read.

A separate statement carried on the military's Facebook page blamed "remnants" of Mubarak's National Democratic Party for the clashes, and ordered the arrest of four party members it accused of "thuggery" during the sit-in.


Hundreds of soldiers and security troops backed by armoured vehicles stormed into the square at around 3am on Saturday, firing shots into the air, brandishing tasers and batons, and beating people, witnesses said.

Tens of thousands of protesters had flooded into the square on Friday in one of the largest demonstrations since Mubarak stepped down on February 11.

The protesters called for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which nows runs the country, to honour their demands, which include prosecuting a number of former high-ranking regime officials and Mubarak himself.

The protesters had been joined by perhaps as many as 20 military officers, who had been under orders not to participate. Demonstrators stayed in the square past the military curfew, which runs from 2am to 5am, saying they wanted to protect the officers who joined.

When security forces stormed the square, some of the protesting army officers managed to escape, while others were arrested, witnesses said.

Loai Nagati, a student, told Al Jazeera that military police and central security forces took some protesters and beat them, but that nobody had been shot. Speaking while gunfire echoed in the background, he said that some of the army officers who joined the protests had been arrested by security forces.

Amr Bassiouny, who was standing at the square's south entrance near the old campus of the American University in Cairo, told Al Jazeera that hundreds of soldiers backed by eight armoured vehicles entered the square from that direction at around 3am.

The soldiers formed a semi-circle around the south end of the square and advanced towards a tent in the middle where the protesting army officers had been kept. Soldiers could be seen tearing down the tent in an amateur video posted on YouTube.

For 10 or 15 minutes, the protesters and soldiers faced each other, said Sanaa Seif, who had been in the square since 11pm. Protesters chanted "Peaceful, peaceful," and "The people and the army, hand in hand", but the soldiers moved forward again, firing "non-stop" into the air, she said.


Most of the protesters retreated after the army entered the square, witnesses said. Bassiouny ran to the west side of the square, which leads to Kasr el-Nil Bridge, and found more troops entering from that direction.

On the road leading east into the central business district around Talaat Harb Square, protesters tore down the roof of a bus stop and dragged it down the road to protect themselves from gunfire and rocks, said Drew Storey, a neighbourhood resident.

Protesters and army soldiers threw rocks at each other, and at least four injured protesters had to be carried away, he said. Soldiers fired their guns into metal shopfronts, sending sparks flying and bullets ricocheting, apparently to scare away the protesters, Storey said.

At one point, he said, security forces clad in riot gear chanted, cheered and shook each others' hands after driving the protesters away.

Other central security and army forces had been stationed to the north of Tahrir Square next to the Egyptian Museum, which military police have turned into a makeshift detention centre.


In recent weeks, activists have accused the army of making arbitrary arrests, abusing and torturing prisoners, and subjecting detainees to rapid military justice - all complaints that had fuelled mass anger against Mubarak's government.

The increasingly icy relationship between the ruling military council and the youth-driven protest movement was one reason many had returned to the square on Friday. But as the protest thinned and only a few people remained, demonstrators vowed to protect the army officers who had joined them, using loudspeakers to urge others to defend the soldiers with their lives, Seif said.

Though some of the protesting army officers were reportedly arrested, seven or eight escaped the square, Bassiouny said.

Seif said she saw a group of people leading some of the protesting officers out of the square.

She said she hoped the crackdown would bring more people out into the street to protest.

"I hope so, I mean it happened before, but I think it's getting better, because people are now more aware that the army is not really that loyal to the revolution," she said.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Egyptians protest oustide Israeli Embassy, demand severing ties

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Egyptians strike in front of Israeli Embassy, demand severed ties with Israel

Sat, 09/04/2011

Heba Afify

Around 1000 Egyptians protested in front of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo on Friday amid heavy military presence, demanding the severing of all diplomatic and economic ties with Israel.

The protest was prompted by the recent Israel attacks on Gaza. Israeli forces have been attacking the strip since Thursday causing a total of 17 casualties and tens of injuries in retaliation to a missile attack on an Israeli school bus, which was launched from a Hamas-controlled territory the same day causing two injuries.

Protesters demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in Egypt and yelled “bring down the flag, we don’t want it,” referring to the Israeli flag on top of the embassy’s building. They also called on the Egyptian Government to stop exporting gas to Israel and to open the Rafah border crossing for Palestinians.

Protesters also called for refugees’ right of return. Official UN records say there are 4.7 million Palestinian refugees around the world. Egypt hosts an estimated 50,000 of them.

“We will stay here as long as it takes for our demands to be met, and then we can concentrate on our domestic demands again,” said one protester as an open strike in front of Israeli Embassy was announced.

A high-ranking military officer tried to address the protesters but they yelled, “get down” and told him that their demands are not negotiable. The officer assured them that he agrees with all demands and that he will deliver them to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Protesters burnt Israeli flags as passers by showed their support by honking their car horns. People came out in nearby balconies holding the Palestinian flag.

Protesters gave out flyers calling for a “Third Palestinian Intifada” that aims at returning Palestinian refugees on the coming 15 May, which will be the day of the 63rd anniversary of the 1948 Arab defeat before Israel. The flyer read that refugees are planned to be taken in buses from 30 different points along the Palestinian borders with Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Protests are scheduled on 13 May ahead of the move.

The "Third Palestinian Intifada" was first called for on Facebook. After getting some 330,000 followers, the page was shut down by the Facebook administration on 29 March as Israel reportedly appealed to the social networking site CEO Mark Zuckerberg, claiming that the page calls for the murder of Jews and the destruction of the state of Israel.

Largest Protest Since Mubarak's Abdication

Around one million Egyptians showed up to protest in Tahrir Square on Friday. Protesters again demanded the immediate arrest and trial of Hosni Mubarak and family, and called for the dissolution of Mubarak's National 'Democratic' Party.

The dictator and his family stood trial before a popular tribunal (in absentia) in Tahrir Square. The fallen dictator was charged with the murder of protesters, systematic corruption, misappropriation of state-owned lands and public finances, along with complicity in the Israeli siege on Gaza, amongst other charges.

Slogans and chants against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) resounded throughout Tahrir Square. The chief of the SCAF, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi was subjected to scathing criticism in speeches delivered during the protests.

Thousands chanted against the SCAF's military tribunals, its torture and abuse, along with its assaults on striking workers.

Hundreds of thousands packed the square and its environs.

The largest protest in Tahrir Square since Mubarak's abdication.

The protests against Mubarak and the remnants of his regime are now being coupled with protests against the interim government of Essam Sharaf and the SCAF.

Under the interim government and SCAF, over 5,000 civilians have been subjected to swift trials before military tribunals - with no right to appeal; While only a handful of Mubarak's corrupt ministers officials are being prosecuted - before civilian courts, with the right to appeal. As for Mubarak and his family, they stand before no court whatsoever.

Youth from Djibouti showed up in Tahrir to express their solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution. Libyan protesters were also present, along with others from Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. Thousands of Egyptians chanted slogans in solidarity with the uprisings in all these countries.

Musicians performed songs in support of Egypt's ongoing revolution.

Friday's "million person protest" carried on strong throughout the day and night. Hundreds of protesters remained in the square past curfew. However, at around 3am hundreds of army soldiers and police forces beat protesters out of the square, and arrested others.

Egyptian Military Continues Repression

Activists Say Egyptian Military Continues Repression

April 7, 2011

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

When Egypt's revolution drove former President Hosni Mubarak from office, the military stepped in to oversee the country's transition to democracy. But the revolution's leaders and activists fear that move has backfired.

They accuse the military of continuing the repressive practices of Mubarak's much-hated security forces and replacing Egypt's legal system with its own brand of justice.


Almost daily, relatives and supporters of detained Egyptians come to an imposing military court compound in a Cairo suburb.

Here and at other army courts around the country, military policemen serving as judges and prosecutors have tried more than 5,000 cases since February. Military officials say the goal is to curb the growing crime wave across Egypt spurred by the disappearance of police officers from the streets after the revolution.

But activists say that doesn't excuse bypassing civilian laws and courts, especially now that Egypt's police force is back on duty.

"The army is sending a very negative message now by creating this parallel legal system, which effectively undermines the integrity of the ordinary judicial system," says Hossam Bahgat, who heads the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. The group is tracking military detentions and trials in Egypt.

"They are not equipped to deal with such a large number of cases," he says, "and that has resulted in speedy trials with inadequate legal defense and without access by the defendants or their lawyers to the case files or the evidence against them in the vast majority of cases."

Bahgat and others complain that the military, which already faces widespread criticism over earlier allegations of torturing and sexually abusing detainees, does not follow Egyptian laws regarding the rights of the accused.

The critics add that convictions and sentences in military courtrooms are far more frequent and severe. Appeals are nearly impossible. Defendants like T-shirt vendor Ahmed Mursi are tried and usually convicted in trials that last only minutes.

Mursi's mother, Mona Hussain Hassan, lives in the family's modest apartment in a southern suburb of Cairo. She pulls out letters she has written to the military and human-rights groups to try to make sense of why her son was sentenced in March to two years in prison.

Hassan says all her son did was argue with a rude man at a checkpoint near their home. That man turned out to be a plainclothes police officer.

Hassan says the officer handed her son over to the soldiers and told them he was carrying a knife, a claim Mursi and friends who were with him deny. His mother says no knife was produced at his brief trial.

The military judge nevertheless convicted her son.

"I tried to ease his worries by telling him it was the military, and that his trial would be fair," she says. "But the trial was not just at all. How could they treat him like this?"


Activists say equally disturbing is the military's apparent decision to start going after its critics. Eleven days ago, they arrested blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad at his home. The 25-year-old law student had posted a blog entry arguing that the military was against the revolution and not with the people, as it claimed.

One of his lawyers, Adel Ramadan, says his client was charged with insulting the military and harming state security. He faces up to three years in prison on each count.

Aalam Wassef, founder of a social network for academics who has posted videos criticizing the Egyptian military on the Web, says he fled the country a few days after Sanad's arrest for fear he, too, might be nabbed. He says he will continue his critiques on the Web from abroad.

"The military always had this reputation of integrity, of patriotism," Wassef says. "So as long as we keep the pressure and we're extremely bold about exposing them, they will have to back off. They have no choice."

Back in Cairo, Sanad's father, Nabil Sanad Ibrahim, is not convinced the military will back down that easily. He adds that his son's trial can't possibly be fair if he's being judged by the very people he's accused of insulting.

A verdict in Sanad's case is expected Sunday.

Egypt: Drop Charges Against Blogger Critical of Military

Human Rights Watch
Egypt: Drop Charges Against Blogger Critical of Military
Latest Unlawful Trial of Civilian Before Military Court

April 5, 2011

(New York) - Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces should drop all charges against a blogger for his internet posts critical of the military, Human Rights Watch said today.

On April 6, 2011, a military tribunal is expected to deliver the verdict in the case against Maikel Nabil, who faces up to three years in prison on charges of "insulting the military."

"It's pretty stunning in Egypt's supposed new era of rights to see the military government prosecuting someone in a military court for writing about the military," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "This trial sets a dangerous precedent at a time when Egypt is trying to transition away from the abuses of the Mubarak era."

Nabil, a 25-year-old activist who blogs at "Son of Ra,'" has campaigned for an end to forced conscription and most recently criticized the army in a series of blog posts, including one entitled, "The Army and the People [Were Never] One Hand." His criticism of the military has become the subject of the case against him, in addition to comments published on his personal Facebook page.

On March 28 at 5 p.m., five military officers went to Nabil's home in the Ein Shams district of Cairo and arrested him with a warrant from the military prosecutor. His brother, Mark Nabil, told Human Rights Watch that Maikel called his family the next day, told them that he had spent the night at Military Intelligence offices, and asked them to send a lawyer for his interrogation the following day.

The military prosecutor charged him with "insulting the military establishment," under article 184 of the penal code, and with "spreading false information," a violation of article 102 bis. These provisions carry sentences that include a fine of up to 5000 EGP (US$840) and imprisonment in prison.

In a military court session on April 4, a military intelligence officer presented the evidence against Nabil, which one of his defense lawyers, Maged Hanna, told Human Rights Watch consisted of a CD with details of Nabil's blog postings and commentary on Facebook over recent months.

Another defense lawyer, Ali Atef, told Human Rights Watch that the prosecutor's indictment lists a series of comments on Nabil's Facebook page in which he criticized Defense Minister Mohamed Husein Tantawi and the army for their abuses against protesters, blamed the army for Egypt's security problems, and criticized the army for conducting forced virginity tests on female detainees. The blog posts referred to by the prosecutor included posts in which Nabil called for an end to forced military conscription and was critical of the treatment he experienced during his time in the army as a conscript.

The right to freedom of expression, including writing that criticizes the military, is protected under international human rights agreements to which Egypt is a party, Human Rights Watch said. The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in article 9 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in article 19 obligate Egypt to protect free expression. Under international law, restrictions on freedom of expression must be strictly limited to meet a legitimate aim.

This is the third time a blogger has been brought before a military court in Egypt. In February 2009, the military arrested Ahmad Mostafa, a student and member of the April 6 protest movement, for his blog post "Scandal in the Military Academy," in which he alleged corruption in the military academy. The military charged him with "the publication of information considered a secret of the armed forces, spreading false information with the goal of causing harm and insulting officials." The court ultimately acquitted him. In November 2010, a military court sentenced another blogger, Ahmad Bassiouni, to six months in prison for having "broadcast military secrets via the internet."

Human Rights Watch strongly opposes any trials of civilians before military courts, the proceedings of which do not protect due process rights. The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, in interpreting the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, has said that military courts "should not, in any circumstances whatsoever, have jurisdiction over civilians."

The military has brought hundreds of civilians before military trials since it formally took over the government from Hosni Mubarak on February 13. Those arrested and tried before military courts include a number of peaceful protesters whom the military beat and tortured on March 9 and other occasions. Over 150 protesters remain imprisoned in Tora and Wadi Gedid prisons after being convicted by military tribunals.

"The Supreme Military Council, in its caretaker role, is supposed to protect and uphold the rights of Egyptians to express themselves, however critical their views may be," Whitson said. "The Egyptian army should understand that it is no more immune from criticism than former President Mubarak."