Thursday, August 25, 2011

Libya: Death toll mounts as fighting rages in Tripoli

Oman Observer
Fighting rages as death toll in Tripoli mounts

Fri, 26 August 2011

TRIPOLI — Libyan opposition fighters battled government troops across Tripoli yesterday and stifle any counter-attack.

Machinegun bursts and the crack of sniper fire kept the capital’s two million civilians pinned indoors, with supplies running low.

More than 20,000 people have been killled in the six-month unrest in the country, opposition leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil opined yesterday.

“I do not have the exact figure, but the armed conflict has resulted in more than 20,000 dead,” said Abdel Jalil, head of the Transitional National Council.
Asked about the possible presence of chemical weapons in the country, he said there was nothing to fear.

“I know very well that those weapons have expired,” he said.
Hundreds of opposition fighters launched an attack on a Tripoli hideout of government forces, an AFP TV reporter said.

More than 300 fighters armed with Kalashnikov, rocket launchers and assault rifles streamed into the Abu Salim district where they traded fire with troops and launched a house-to-house search.

“Today we are freeing Abu Salim,” and “Today we will conquer Abu Salim,” the dissidents yelled as they headed into battle. Dissidents said they arrested two government fighters, accusing one of them of being a sniper. One dissident tore down one of the many green flags raised in support of the regime in the low-income district renowned for its political prison.

Two days after the headquarters of Col Muammar Gaddafi in the capital was intruded, his forces still appear to control his tribal home city of Sirte on the coast and were reported to be fighting at Sabha in the south. Gaddafi broadcast a message on Wednesday calling on Libyans to fight back against the Nato-backed forces.

Opposition leaders, offering a million-dollar reward, say the war will be over only when Gaddafi is found, “dead or alive”.

The ex-international high representative in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, said there was a need for speed if Libya was to avoid a lingering threat from the predecessor, unlike what transpired in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq.

“The best time to capture these defeated leaders is immediately after the conflict finishes,” Ashdown said. “The longer it takes the more chance they have of being spirited away to a place which is much more difficult to find.”

With fighting raging in Tripoli, there was evidence of the kind of bitter bloodletting in recent days that the opposition leaders are anxious to stop in the interests of uniting Libyans, including former Gaddafi supporters, in a democracy.

A correspondent counted 30 bodies at a site in central Tripoli. At least two had their hands bound. One was strapped to a hospital trolley. All the bodies had been riddled with bullets.

Elsewhere, a British medical worker said she had counted 17 bodies.

The French magazine Paris Match quoted an intelligence source saying Libyan commandos found evidence that he had stayed at a safe house which they raided on Wednesday. Nato was helping the opposition with intelligence and reconnaissance, Britain said, and its jets kept up their bombing campaign overnight.

“There are areas of resistance which has had considerable levels of military expertise, still has stockpiles of weapons and still has the ability for command and control,” British Defence Minister Liam Fox told Sky News.

“They may take some time to completely eliminate and it is likely there will be some frustrating days ahead.”

Medical supplies, never especially plentiful, were dwindling to critical levels in many places where some of the hundreds of casualties from the fighting were being treated. Shooting in the street also kept medics away from work.

“The hospitals that I’ve been to have been full of wounded — gunshot wounded,” said Jonathan Whittall, head of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) mission to Libya.

“In one health facility that I visited, they had converted some houses next to the clinic into an in-patient department ... But because of the shortage of staff, there was no nursing staff and the patients were essentially caring for themselves.”

More than 30 men have been killed at a military encampment in central Tripoli and at least two were bound with plastic handcuffs, indicating they had been executed.

A correspondent counted 30 bodies riddled with bullets in an area of the Libyan capital where there had been fighting between Gaddafi forces and rebels.

Five of the dead were at a field hospital nearby, with one in an ambulance. Some of the dead wore military uniforms while others wore civilian clothes. Some were African men; Two of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.

The incident took place at a traffic circle in an area of Tripoli that had been held by forces loyal to Gaddafi.

The encampment was littered with abandoned food, weapons boxes and the shells of wrecked vehicles. Blankets had been placed over the dead.

Elsewhere in the city, a British medical worker said a hospital had received the bodies of 17 civilians believed to have been killed in recent days.

“Yesterday a truck arrived at the hospital with 17 dead bodies,” Kirsty Campbell of the International Medical Corps said at Mitiga hospital.

Amnesty International said yesterday a delegation it had sent to Libya received reports of abuses by both sides in the conflict, including detaining and beating migrants suspected of being mercenaries.

*Photo courtesy of Reuters

Egypt: Mounting accounts of torture under military junta

Ahram Online
Military council fails to defuse mounting tales of torture in Egypt

Thursday 25 Aug 2011

Mostafa Ali

Soldiers arrive one mid-afternoon to break off a peaceful gathering in Tahrir Square. Days later, several young people recount scary ordeals and horror stories they claim they endured.

Amr, for example, a young Egyptian man who works in the TV and Radio Corporation, entered the Metro Station in Tahrir Square to take the train home around 2pm.

“On the stairs going into the station, three men in civilian clothes arrested me. They took my ID card and broke it into two pieces. They kicked and punched me around and then led me to a personnel carrier nearby,” Amr told El Nadeem Centre for the psychological rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture.

“In the crowded vehicle, soldiers cursed me and hit me all over my body repeatedly until I almost fainted. I found a few young men in the car who were also apparently beaten and we all had trouble breathing because it was inhumanely hot and stuffy in there. They drove us around for two hours until we arrived at the prison,” Amr continued, recounting his story as it appears on the Centre’s website.

“Soldiers welcomed us at the prison gate by hitting us with electric shock batons in sensitive parts of our bodies. They made us crawl on our stomachs into the jail yard while stepping down on us with their boots and lashing at us with their whips,” Amr recalled to El Nadeem.

Ahmed, a journalist, said that soldiers arrested him that same day as he headed towards a mosque near the square to perform his afternoon prayers.

“I told them that I am a journalist. They said they did not give a damn. They took us to a prison. They stripped us and made us crawl naked on the jail’s asphalt. My back is swollen and I might need surgery on my leg,” goes Ahmed’s account to El Nadeem Centre.

Zeinab, a young woman, said that soldiers abused her as she tried to help an elderly woman whom soldiers knocked down after she shouted at soldiers in defence of those being beaten.

“Some soldiers grabbed me, lifted my blouse and started slapping me straight on the flesh. They said that I was more or less a whore,” Zeinab told El Nadeem.

These stories are not of the horror and torture that Egyptians endured in the long years under the draconian rule of ousted president Hosni Mubarak. The peaceful gathering in question did not take place against one of the many facets of Mubarak’s repressive rule.

Moreover, the soldiers accused of brutality and torture were not members of the notorious State Security Intelligence core, which haunted and abused endless numbers of protesters and other ordinary citizens for decades to keep Mubarak safely in power.

The demonstration in question took place on 1 August 2011; seven months after Egyptians ousted Mubarak in a spectacular popular revolution.

The people accused of brutality in these cases were soldiers and officers in the Egyptian army, who were involved in the act of forcibly breaking up a 22-day sit-in by families of January 25 revolution martyrs and their supporters.

In the last few weeks, Egyptian revolutionaries, and local and international human rights activists, have been criticising the way in which the ruling military council, which is ultimately responsible for the behaviour of its soldiers, has administered authority since 11 February, the day it ousted Mubarak.

Activists have taken up the cause of more than 12,000 civilians that the council has tried in military courts for a range of alleged crimes and violations, as well as hundreds of people who have claimed that army soldiers and officers tortured them.

Several campaigns have been launched to demand that the council end its practice of trying civilians in military courts. Other campaigners work to expose the treatment, that they believe amounts to torture, of prisoners in military jails.

All along, the military council has denied, in statements it publishes regularly on its official Facebook page, that it does anything wrong.

Generals in the council have consistently argued that they have only tried those accused of crimes as serious as armed robbery and rape in military courts.

Moreover, the council has also repeatedly denied that its officers or soldiers have ever used unnecessary force, or tortured anyone they arrest or apprehend.

However, over the course of the last few months, human rights and other political activists have gathered an overwhelming amount of evidence through testimonies from people that the army arrested or jailed which show, beyond any reasonable doubt, that someone in the army has been doing something wrong all along.

In fact, some human rights organisations started documenting cases in which the army allegedly tortured citizens as far back as during the 18-day period of the popular uprising against Mubarak, long before the council formally assumed power.

On 17 February, for example, Amnesty International issued a report in which it called on the Egyptian army to stop its members from torturing citizens that they were apprehending on the streets of Cairo and other cities during those tumultuous days.

Amnesty, through numerous interviews it conducted with people detained by the army during the anti-Mubarak uprising, concluded that officers and soldiers stripped suspects of clothes, beat them, raped some and used electric batons, banned under international treaties, to electrocute them.

For example, in the case of one 18-year-old man that the army detained near the epicentre of the rebellion near Tahrir Square, Amnesty was able to establish that officers accused their suspect of being a foreign agent for Israel, subjected him to the illegal tactic of waterboarding to extract confessions, and later applied electric shocks to his body.

During the first few weeks after Mubarak left power, mass euphoria as well as unconditional and overwhelming public support for the ruling military council drowned out reports such as Amnesty’s or most, if any, criticism of the army’s treatment of civilians.

However, the issue resurfaced rather quickly by mid-March in the aftermath of the army’s treatment of people it detained when it broke up a sit-in in Tahrir Square on 9 March.

Activists posted videos on the internet showing marks of torture on the bodies of several individuals who alleged that officers and soldiers tortured them in a makeshift processing prison that the army set up in the Egyptian Museum on the outskirts of the square.

In one gruesome video, a young man named Khaled displayed tens of burn marks on his body, which he claimed that army personnel inflicted on him by using the same type of batons that others claimed were used against them.

Moreover, Khaled claimed in the same video that soldiers cut his hair with the broken shards of a soda bottle.

Finally, and perhaps potentially more damning for the army, 18 women arrested that day charged that army doctors performed virginity tests, which are illegal by international human rights standards.

Some international news outlets such as BBC Arabic shed light on the incident, which activists called the ‘Egyptian Museum torture tragedy’, as well as numerous other allegations that the Egyptian army might be in the business of torture.

Members of the ruling military council at first publicly denied that anything wrong took place in the confines of the Egyptian Museum. However, after human rights activists pressed the council both with convincing testimonies from people who said they were victimised, as well as street protests, the Generals agreed to open an investigation into the matter.

The army’s report found that its doctors performed virginity tests on some female detainees. However, it claimed that doctors did so only to defend themselves against any potential accusations of rape by the women. Finally, the report concluded that all other accusations of torture against the soldiers were baseless.

Until that point, local TV stations and newspapers chose to ignore the story, and did not bother to talk to any of the activists and bloggers who blasted the internet with numerous accounts from torture victims.

However, by the summer, many Egyptians who still politically supported the council in general started to pay more attention to those who had claimed for months that there was an element within the military that tortured detainees.

After months of hard legal and investigative work by hundreds of people, activists and lawyers such as those in the No to Military Trials campaign succeeded in pushing the issue of allegations of torture by the army (as well as its use of military tribunals) into the public sphere.

For example, three weeks ago, ON TV anchor Yousri Fouda pioneered a new tradition of airing video clips that journalists and other citizens shoot to document torture incidents that the army constantly denies.

Fouda’s widely watched late night news show, 'The Last Words', played a video of two plain clothes security officers beating a man minutes after army soldiers arrested him in Tahrir on 1 August in full view of military police personnel.

Abdel Rahman Ezz, a well-known TV journalist, happened to be the person who captured the footage on the video that ON TV aired. As if the army needed more bad publicity, Ezz shot the beating while he was himself in the army’s custody, after soldiers randomly arrested him in the square, and was sitting next to none other than the young men the soldiers had clearly just finished bruising up.

Towards the end of August, news reports came out that prisoners in the military prison of Hike Step in the suburbs of Cairo rioted against what they called inhumane incarceration conditions and possible torture inside the facility.

Once again, army spokespersons denied to newspapers that a riot over poor living conditions or torture took place at all. “Thugs and hardened criminals attempted to cause trouble, that was it,” the army asserted.

Ragia Omran, a well-known human rights lawyer, political activist and a co-founder of the No to Military Trials campaign, confirmed to Ahram Online that lawyers have filed numerous complaints with military authorities to document and protest incidents of torture.

However, Omran said that she does not believe that army officers and soldiers torture detainees in a systematic way. “Some officers and soldiers do use torture but others treat detainees in a more humane manner,” she said.

Corroborating this complicated picture is Khaled who says that while he was being beaten by electric batons in the Egyptian Museum by soldiers, a sympathetic army officer intervened, gave him pants and a shirt, and personally set him free.

“The problem I think has more to do with the fact that we are coming out of a long period in which Egyptian authorities in general showed no respect for issues such as human rights and the dignity of citizens,” Omran explained.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights finally convinced the prosecutor-general to open an investigation into 900 torture cases, 200 of them leading to deaths in police stations, that it has been pursuing against the Mubarak regime since 1993.

This is all a start. Omran believes activists and the public need to continue organising and applying pressure on both the army and the police, in order to end the practice of military trials and root out the culture of abuse and torture against human beings.

*Photo courtesy of Reuters

Libyan Revolutionaries Capture Tripoli's Green Square

All Voices
Libyan Rebels Enter Tripoli's Green Square


TRIPOLI: Libyan rebels entered the capital Tripoli on Sunday with little sign of resistance from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in the Libyan leader's last remaining stronghold in the North African nation.

Libyan rebels waved opposition flags and shot into the air in jubilation after reaching Tripoli's central Green Square, live footage from the scene showed in the early hours of Monday.

The vast square, reserved until now for carefully orchestrated rallies praising Muammar Gaddafi, erupted in celebration after rebel troops pushed into the center of the Libyan capital overnight.

Following are reactions from analysts and political players to the fluid events unfolding in Libya following six months of fighting between rebels and Gaddafi's forces.

John Drake, Senior Risk Consultant, UK-based Consultancy Ake "Had the rebels marched into Tripoli in late February the situation would have been very different and the city may have fallen relatively quickly and easily.

"Now, after six months of fighting, the animosity between the two sides is likely to be a lot higher, so there is going to be a risk of violent retribution against those seen as having supported the regime over that time."

Ashour Shamis, Opposition Activist and Journalist, "The game is over for Gaddafi. There's bound to be some resistance here and there but his forces seem to be falling apart. He no longer directs his men.

"I think most Libyans want his men to peacefully surrender but if they resist they will have to be fought.

"If rebel forces capture people who are wanted by The Hague court, they will have to keep them safe until they are handed over to Libyan legal authorities.

"What then happens to those persons arrested, in terms of whether they end up at The Hague court, will I think depend in part on how they conduct themselves (in custody)."

According to Anthony Skinner, Middle East Analyst at Maplecroft, "it does look like it is coming to an end. But there are still plenty of questions. The most important is exactly what Gaddafi does now. Does he flee or can he fight? In the slightly longer term, what happens next? We know there have been some serious divisions between the rebel movement and we don't know yet if they will be able to form a cohesive front is to run the country.

"Looking further afield, it is obviously going to be very uncomfortable viewing for Assad in Syria. Obviously they are very different cases, particularly because of the outside military involvement in Libya. But it's another sign that when you use brutal force against protesters, you lose legitimacy. It just inflames the situation and at the end of the day we have seen another regional leader forced from power.

Diplomatic woes pile up for isolated Israel

Analysis: Diplomatic woes pile up for isolated Israel

Sat Aug 20, 2011

Crispian Balmer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel was expecting a diplomatic tsunami to strike in September, but the problems have come sooner than expected, leaving it ever more isolated in the Middle East.

Egypt's decision Saturday to recall its envoy from Israel will remove the last Arab ambassador from Tel Aviv, further undermining a relationship that had started to buckle following the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Tensions flared after a cross-border attack earlier this week, with Cairo accusing Israeli forces of shooting dead three Egyptian security guards during gun-battles with Palestinian militants who had earlier ambushed and killed eight Israelis.

The row comes days after renewed verbal barbs between Israel and its one-time ally Turkey, which is still fuming over the deaths of nine Turks last year when Israeli commandos stormed a boat trying to break the blockade of Gaza.

Turkey is demanding an apology for the incident, something Israel is refusing to provide. Now Egypt wants to hear "sorry" too, but all it is getting so far are offers of "regret."

"Egypt is trying to re-educate Israel and is following the same line as the Turkish foreign policy," said Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern studies in Tel Aviv.

Israel's international standing faces a fresh assault next month as Palestinian leaders from the West Bank seek full membership of the United Nations in a General Assembly vote that will expose decades of rancour.

"Israel needs to learn that it is facing a different Middle East," Rabi told Reuters Television.


Israel's 1979 peace deal with Egypt has been the cornerstone of its Middle East policy, providing much-needed stability to its southern flanks and enabling successive leaders to maintain the status quo in the unresolved Palestinian conflict.

Egypt's new military leaders are highly unlikely to tear up the Camp David accords, which brought Cairo enhanced security stability and also gave it access to generous Western funds.

But after an uprising among a populace that is overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian, the military has already shown itself to be more open to the Islamist Hamas group that governs the Gaza enclave and more assertive when it comes to dealing with Israel.

"Israel must be aware that the days when it kills our children without getting a strong, appropriate response are gone for ever," Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister and ex-Arab League chief, said on his Twitter feed.

In the heady days following the Egyptian peace deal, which eventually opened the way for treaties with other Arab states such as Jordan and Morocco, many Israelis hoped that they would find partners to forge a reconstructed and secure Middle East.

Those dreams have long vanished and some analysts believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government have simply decided to by-pass the region and build alliances elsewhere.

"They don't expect peace with the Palestinians. They are giving up on the Middle East. They are focussing on eastern Europe," said Alon Liel, former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry.

"If you think like that then you can't expect good relations with your neighbours," he told Reuters.

As ties with regional neighbours sour, relations with some of Israel's closest allies, including the United States, are not as rosy as they once were.

Western diplomats have pinned much of the blame for stalled Palestinian peace talks on Israel, with Washington and European capitals roundly condemning a spurt of recent approvals for settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

While the United States has said it will side with Israel in the impending showdown in the United Nations, a big majority of U.N. members are likely to back the Palestinians.

"The real wake-up call will come in September. The Palestinians are headed towards a diplomatic Intifada, not a military Intifada," Liel said, seeing diplomacy rather than street violence as the main threat for Israel.

(Created by Crispian Balmer; editing by Andrew Roche)

Egypt: Protesters call for expelling Israeli ambassador

Daily News Egypt
Egyptian protesters call for expelling Israeli ambassador

August 19, 2011

Omnia Al Desoukie

CAIRO: Around 300 people protested in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo after Friday prayers, calling on the ruling military council to expel the Israeli ambassador in response to what they said was a deliberate attack on Sinai.

“We want a reaction to teach Israel to keep away from our lands,” said Israa Salama, a 21-year-old student at Al-Azhar University who came to the protest with no invitation from any political group.

A similar protest was held at the Israeli consulate in Alexandria.

Security sources said that five policemen, including an officer, were killed on the previous day as Israeli and Egyptian troops combed the border area following attacks in Israel that killed eight.

Egypt lodged a formal protest to Israel over the death of members of its security forces, and demanded an investigation into the deaths, an Egyptian army official told Reuters.

“I came here and I feel that this is a game by the military council to divert our thoughts from our calls for a civil state,” Taha Hussein, 23, said.

A group of protesters said the Egypt’s dignity will depend on its response to Israel.

“Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador because of the flotilla, Egyptians’ blood is not cheaper than that of the Turkish,” said Fathi Ahmed Hussein, head of the Labor Party, who was sent to military court after traveling to Gaza a few years ago.

Noha Salama, an activist, said they are not only calling on Egypt’s military to protect the borders, but also to work towards easing Palestinian suffering and taking action against Israel.

Protesters called for halting gas exports to Israel and ending the Camp David accords.

Israeli forces kill five Egyptian security guards

NOW Lebanon
Five Egyptian police killed in Thursday Israel border clash

August 19, 2011

Egyptian security officials said on Friday that five policemen were killed the previous day near the Israel border as Israeli and Egyptian forces searched for gunmen behind a deadly attack on Israelis.

There were conflicting reports about how the policemen died.

The security official said they were killed by unknown gunmen, but a military official told the state MENA agency the night before they were killed by Israeli fire.

Security officials earlier said three policemen were killed on Thursday when an Israeli Apache gunship fired a rocket at militants it was pursuing along the border, after attacks on Israeli buses and cars killed eight.

State television said five Egyptians were killed in the incident, three policemen and two unidentified men.

An Israeli military commander said that, after the attacks in Israel, Israeli and Egyptian security forces killed four of the militants on the Egyptian side of the border, which Sinai officials denied.

The military has said it is combing the border with Israel and beefing up security after Thursday's attack North of the Israeli town of Eilat, in which militants attacked two buses, a military vehicle and a civilian car.

Egypt's military, which launched a sweeping operation in Sinai to uproot Islamist militants, is facing increased pressure to secure the restive peninsula.

*AFP/ NOW Lebanon

Egypt: Military junta drops charges against bloggers

Associated Press
Egypt military drops charges against bloggers

August 19, 2011

CAIRO: Egypt’s ruling military council, which has been widely criticized for subjecting protesters to military tribunals, dropped charges Thursday against two activists who criticized its generals via social networking sites.

The council said it excused both Asmaa Mahfouz and Louie Nagati because the two were “in a revolutionary condition which had an impact on their performance in public and political arenas,” according to a statement posted on the council’s Facebook page.

Mahfouz was charged Sunday with slander and inciting violence based on postings she made on Facebook and Twitter. Louie was arrested after the June 28 protests and charged with disturbing public security.

The council urged Egyptian youth and activists to “express their positions and opinion responsibly so as not to include an insult or harm.”

During interrogation, the prosecutor cited as evidence Mahfouz’s writings and a call to a private TV station in which she accused the country’s rulers of planning an attack on protesters last month. She was quoted calling the military council “the council of dogs.”

Mahfouz was also accused of inciting violence by criticizing on Twitter the slow pace of trials and warning that people may take justice into their own hands.

“Bottom line, if the judiciary doesn’t get us our rights, no one should be crossed if there are armed groups, who carry out assassinations, since there is no law and no judiciary. No one should be crossed,” Mahfouz wrote in an Aug. 10 tweet.

Mahfouz’s prosecution triggered criticism of the military ruling council prompting activists to call for “a third revolution” against “the military junta.”

Rights advocates have criticized the army for referring thousands of Egyptians to military tribunals, which are known for swift and harsh sentences. Political activists and bloggers have been imprisoned for speaking against the army.

Egypt’s ruling military council took over power after former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 under strong public pressure and 18 days of mass protests. Since then, army troops have violently cracked down on protesters who demanded the council carry out speedy reforms and uproot remnants of Mubarak’s regime.

Most recently, army troops wielded batons and fired in the air to disperse dozens of activists holding a traditional Ramadan meal Aug. 5 in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square.

Military council must drop charges against blogger

Egypt must drop charges against blogger accused of ‘defaming’ military on Twitter

15 August 2011

The Egyptian authorities must immediately drop charges against a woman blogger and activist accused of defaming the military on Twitter, Amnesty International said today.

Asmaa Mahfouz, 26, was summoned by military prosecutors on Sunday and later released on bail of 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,356) after posting messages on the social media network expressing concerns about the Egyptian justice system and the actions of the military government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

“Asmaa Mahfouz is facing a military trial merely for posting comments which criticize the Egyptian military justice system and do not at all appear to represent a call to violence,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for Middle East and North Africa.

“The Egyptian authorities’ decision to refer Asmaa Mahfouz to a military court seems intended to send a message to those critical of the authorities that dissent will not be tolerated. The charges against her must be dropped immediately”, he said.

“Trying civilians before a military court is also deeply problematic: these courts are fundamentally unfair and deprive defendants of some of the basic guarantees of fair trial, including the right to appeal,” he added.

She is charged with “insulting the armed forces” and “inciting the use of violence” on her Twitter posts.

No date has been set yet for the trial.

She is a founding member of the 6 April Youth Movement, one of the main organising forces behind the mass uprising in Egypt earlier this year.

Asmaa Mahfouz wrote on Twitter :

“If the justice system does not give us our rights, nobody should be upset if armed groups emerge and carry out assassinations.

As long at there is no law, there is no justice, anything can happen and nobody should be upset.”

She denies the allegations and following her release told the Egyptian website Al-Masry Al-Youm: “I was only warning the military council that the absence of justice will lead to chaos."

The SCAF has said that 10,000 civilians have been tried by military courts since Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down as president earlier this year.

Amnesty International considers such trials, which were much used against his critics by former President Mubarak, to violate fundamental requirements of due process and fair trial, and opposes the trial of civilians by military courts.

Israel stockpiling crowd-control weapons

The National
Israel stockpiling crowd-control weapons

Aug 15, 2011

Hugh Naylor

JERUSALEM // Israel is stockpiling crowd-control weapons and preparing security forces for Palestinian protests planned to coincide with a push for statehood at the United Nations.

Israel's police and military have reportedly gone on a spending spree in the past month importing everything from extra tear-gas launchers to Belgian-born stallions in anticipation of the Palestinian bid to win recognition at the United Nations.

The preparations come after a string of deadly responses to pro-Palestinian demonstrations that have left Israel sensitive to international scrutiny of its tactics. Israel is also fearful of inflaming widespread Palestinian anger.

While acknowledging the potential for violent confrontations, Palestinian officials, who have called for peaceful rallies in September, say the Israeli preparations are overblown.

"I haven't seen any Palestinian individual or group planning at all for violent unrest," said Ghassan Khatib, a spokesperson for the West Bank's governing Palestinian Authority.

"So the question should be directed back to the Israelis: are they interested in pushing the Palestinians back to violence?"

Some Israeli officials have sought to play down the chances of such a confrontation. Asked in an interview with Israel's Army Radio if September would come and go peacefully, Ehud Barak, the defence minister, said: "My assessment and hope is yes."

Police and military forces appear to be taking few chances, however.

An internal police newsletter obtained by the Associated Press shows officers gearing up for clashes, doubling the number of riot police to more than 2,000.

The newsletter said extra non-lethal riot-control devises, such as water canons and tear-gas launchers, have been imported, including additional amounts of a foul-smelling liquid, or "skunk", used to disperse crowds. Another machine called the "scream", which emits carefully calibrated sound waves that induce nauseating symptoms from its targets has also been purchased.

Even 15 horses for riot-control officers have recently been shipped in from Belgium.

Nissim Mor, commander of the police operations branch, wrote in the newsletter that the preparations reflected a hope by police "to avoid casualties in the event of [UN endorsement of] Palestinian independence".

That also includes beefed-up training, such as a secret "September training camp" in southern Israel where soldiers are reportedly being schooled in non-violent responses to Palestinian demonstrations.

Giora Eiland, a former major general in Israel's army and a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, expressed confidence in the security establishment's readiness for September. But he cautioned that Israeli forces would not hesitate to use deadly force if they felt threatened.

"The instructions will be very strict - not to let any Palestinian protester take control any of the Israeli positions, whether it be a military position or a civilian settlement" in the West Bank, he said

The more pressing concern had become avoiding a response that could incur negative media coverage and reactions from the international community.

Israel's image is still reeling from the way it has dealt with a number of pro-Palestinian demonstrations that resulted in civilians being killed. Last year, a raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists on-board while in May more than a dozen protesters were shot dead by Israeli sniper fire on the country's borders with Lebanon and Syria.

Hurriyah Ziada, a member of a Palestinian youth movement that promotes non-violent actions against Israel's occupation, called talk of a grand Palestinian strategy in September nonsense.

"There's nothing planned," said the 22-year-old sociology student at the West Bank's Birzeit University. "If something's going to happen, it's going to be spontaneous. I don't know why the Israelis are saying this. Maybe it's to distract attention away from their internal problems."

Israel is grappling with its own wave of popular protests. For the past several weeks, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to decry soaring housing prices and high living costs.

Writing in the newspaper Haaretz yesterday, Yossi Sarid expressed concern that Israeli officials would use the spectre of Palestinian riots as a reason to thwart the country's still-expanding protest movement.

"As usual, the authorities are playing the security card: The Israel Police are readying for riots come September and don't have the manpower to deal with two theaters," he wrote.

RUSH - Working Man

I've got no time for living, yeah I'm working all the time

Draft law may free trade unions from state control

Al-Masry Al-Youm
New law to free workers' syndicates from state control

Sun, 14/08/2011

Omar Halawa

Labor activists are keenly anticipating a new law on labor syndicates, a draft of which has apparently been completed and which could be enacted within weeks.

It is hoped the law will free workers' syndicates from state control and so improve the working conditions of Egyptian laborers, which deteriorated severely under the rule of toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

The Manpower and Immigration Ministry declared last week that the draft of the law had reached its final form following discussions with independent labor leaders and rights organizations.

Experts describe the draft law as offering a boost to labor rights and as one of the major achievements of the 25 January revolution.

“The new law grants workers the right to form syndicates without restrictions being imposed by the state,” says Kamal Abbas, coordinator for the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS).

Once enacted, the draft law will cancel the Trade Union Law, passed in 1976, which codified the state's control over the formation, regulation and financial oversight of syndicates, turning them into institutions closely affiliated with the state.

According to the 1976 law, all workers' syndicates were required to join one of the 23 general unions of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), a state-controlled organization during the Mubarak era.

According to the draft law, however, syndicates will manage their own regulations and finances. They will also report directly to the Manpower and Immigration Ministry, which will be responsible for syndicate affairs.

"The existing law ensured the domination of workers' syndicates by the state-controlled ETUF, imposing strict conditions on its members, while forcing them to abide by laws that served businessmen close to the former regime," says Abbas. The new law is designed to bring an end to this domination, he says.

Under the current law, the ETUF is the supreme authority for worker's affairs, writing policy for the affiliated syndicates and supervising all of their affairs, including approving budgets and administrative regulation. It also has the right to withdraw its support from members of the affiliated syndicates. The new draft law is expect to give syndicates the authority to run their own affairs.

“The Egyptian Trade Union Federation was originally established to create union among the syndicates, which means the federation dominates the syndicates, not the other way round," says Khaled Aly, executive director of the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights.

In early August, the Prime Minister dissolved the board of the ETUF after a court statement declared that the board's elections in 2006 were rigged. A new temporary committee was formed to run the ETUF's affairs until new elections are held. However, it is expected that once the new board comes into place, it will not have the power to interfere in the internal affairs of syndicates within the federation, in accordance with the new law.

The new law creates a system by which syndicates are responsible for their own financial oversight, supervised by a committee composed of three members elected from different syndicates. If the ministry notices any violations, it can resort to a legal process, but cannot penalize the syndicates on its own.

Aly says that the shifting of financial management to the syndicates themselves is an attempt to empower the membership, who establish and maintain their syndicates from their own efforts and finances, in order to achieve fair working conditions and better representation.

The new draft law also prevents syndicates from receiving donations from foreign sources, unless they are members of international labor organizations or the money is for technical support purposes.

The draft law will not change the conditions for the election of presidents, directors or board members of syndicates. However, it does authorize syndicates to name which court should monitor their elections, and terms are now limited to four years, instead of five. The old law authorized the Justice Ministry to select the judicial authority responsible for overseeing the elections of each syndicate.

Aly also supports an article within the draft law that bans the establishment of syndicates on religious or partisan grounds, clarifying that the new law aims to create pluralism inside syndicates without discrimination, unlike the former regime.

One of the draft law’s articles stresses that business owners cannot compel their workers to join a syndicate of which the owner is a member.

"This article gives laborers legal confidence. Workers can, for the first time, negotiate with their employers without administrative reservations," says Abbas.

Members of the now-disbanded ETUF have protested against the new law, accusing Minister of Manpower Ahmed Kamel al-Borai of fragmenting the trade union movement and demanding his dismissal.

Around 33 trade unions, NGOs and civil society institutions have given their approval to the proposed law, which is to be reviewed by cabinet in the coming days.

*Photograph: Mohamed Abdel Ghany

Egypt's Labor Unions Shake Off Their Old Masters

Inter Press Service News
Labour Unions Shake Off Old Masters

Aug 16, 2011

Cam McGrath

CAIRO, (IPS) - The trade union federation that ex-dictator Hosni Mubarak used to repress labour movements and mobilise regime support for sham elections during his 30-year rule has been disbanded, striking a powerful blow to the old order.

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf ordered the executive board of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) dissolved to comply with a court ruling that stipulated that the board was illegitimate because it had been selected through fraudulent elections. Labour activists say the board was stacked with loyalists of the now-defunct ruling party, who used their position to control the labour body's 3.5 million members.

"Since it was created in 1957, ETUF has been an arm of the regime… that has carried out the government's policies when it should have been looking after the interests of workers," says Tamer Fathy, a spokesman for the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS), a local labour rights group.

Under Mubarak, draconian labour legislation required all unions to be part of ETUF, and generally prohibited strikes or collective bargaining unless approved by its syndicate heads.

Fathy says the federation propped up the regime by preventing workers from holding strikes or taking any action that challenged the state or its economic policies. It also mobilised large numbers of workers for pro-government rallies and bussed them to polling stations during elections to vote for the ruling party.

"Dissolving ETUF's board was a serious blow to the remnants of the regime," he says.

According to cabinet sources, the prime minister's order to remove ETUF's leadership aimed to enforce a 2006 court ruling that invalidated the federation's board after determining its leaders had rigged their own election the previous year. The former government had ignored the ruling.

The decision to carry out the court order just weeks ahead of scheduled board elections that would have brought in new leadership appears prompted by evidence that ETUF leaders paid and organised workers to attack peaceful protesters during the 18-day popular uprising that ended Mubarak's rule. There were fears the federation's member pool could be hijacked again for fraud and thuggery in upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

ETUF's disbanded board lashed out at the cabinet for what it described as a conspiracy to undermine the rights of Egyptian workers. Former officials argued that the 2006 court order was issued against the committees of the 24 syndicates that form the federation, not the board itself. They vowed to take legal action to have their positions restored.

"This was an illegal (action)," said one former board member, who declined further comment.

Mohamed Trabelsi, a regional specialist on union activities at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), says ETUF's power had been on the wane for years. A wave of wildcat strikes that began in late 2006 had stirred Egypt's long-quiescent working class, challenging the federation's authority and spawning the youth movements that played a decisive role in toppling the Mubarak regime.

The state-controlled labour body also faced a growing challenge from independent unions. Property tax collectors were the first to defy ETUF's monopoly on organised labour activity, declaring an autonomous union in 2009. Since then, dozens of worker and professional groups have organised themselves into independent unions.

Most of these associations have gathered under the umbrella of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), a parallel labour body that has cannibalised the membership of its state- controlled rival. Its members, estimated to number over 500,000, include postal workers, hospital staff, fishermen and transit employees.

Labour minister Ahmed El-Borai, an outspoken proponent of independent unions, hastened the official federation's downfall by cutting off its financial support. In March, the minister cancelled all state subsidies to unions, stripping ETUF and its subsidiaries of nearly 15 million dollars a year. He also declared an end to mandatory syndicate fees, stating that union membership should be voluntary.

The official federation had languished since Mubarak's departure amid calls for the impeachment of its leaders on charges of corruption and misappropriation of funds. Fathy says the decision to dissolve its board was "the final nail in the coffin."

With ETUF's apparent demise, there was speculation that the mantle would pass to EFITU. El-Borai, however, has given assurances that the mammoth organisation would not be scrapped. Instead, he wants it reformed and given a fresh mandate to support Egyptian workers under new elected leadership.

The minister has appointed an interim board comprised of former ETUF officials, opposition members and labour activists, to manage the federation's affairs until a new board can be voted in.

"We will hold off on board elections until we have new legislation that organises trade unions according to international conventions," El-Borai told IPS. "I expect this draft law to be passed in less than a month."

Fathy says the decision to restructure and reform ETUF makes sense. While EFITU has made impressive strides, building a trade union federation from scratch is a monumental task.

"Workers want to elect their representatives and will follow them to the collective bargaining table to get better salaries and bonuses, but only a few activists have the ambition to build a trade union federation," he explains. "With ETUF you have a structure that already exists."

Islamists’ numbers, money give Egypt reason to worry

Egyptian Gazette
Islamists’ numbers and money have given the nation reason to worry

August 4, 2011

Amr Emam

CAIRO – Alarmed at the rising influence of the Islamists, Egypt's liberals, leftists and nationalists have decided to join hands to create a new alliance to try and counter the post-revolutionary drive towards Islamism.

The new alliance is made up of the nation's leading liberal, leftist and national activists who, shocked by calls to apply the Shari’a (Islamic Law) in Egypt, want to stem the rising Islamic tide and defend the state they hope to establish for all citizens after the ousting of Mubarak’s regime.

"The Islamists are bent on altering the identity of the Egyptian people by instilling their radical version of Islam," said Karima el-Hefnawi, a pharmacist by profession and a liberal activist who is part of the new alliance.

"This radical version of Islam is totally foreign to Egypt and we must all join hands to counter it," she told The Gazette in an interview.

Egypt's coalition of Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood members and apolitical Islamists raised concerns about their intentions, when they dominated the nation's squares last Friday, chanting Islamist slogans and demanding the application of the Shari’a.

Some of the Islamists in the nation's squares even raised the flag of Saudi Arabia, which, according to speakers in a recent seminar on the threats posed by Islamism to Egypt's moderate Islam, wants to spread its version of radical Wahabi Islam across the world, including Egypt.

El-Hefnawi and like-minded activists say some Islamists have confessed to accepting funds from Gulf countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to lobby for the application of Islamic Law and the creation of an Islamic regime in this country.

"Where did the Islamists get all this money from?" asked Mamdouh Hamza, a leading architect and a member of the new alliance. "We must pay attention to funding for these people, coming from outside Egypt.”

In this, Hamza has a point, his colleagues say. When they converged on Tahrir Square, the iconic centre of the Egyptian revolution, the Islamists used hundreds of buses to ferry thousands of their supporters from all governorates to the heart of the Egyptian capital.

Some estimates put the spending of the Salafists on Friday alone at LE4 million (almost $666,000), a fantastic fortune by most Egyptians’ standards. Some people say the Islamists each contributed LE20 towards the LE4 million.

Even with this, the Islamists’ financial abilities seem to be spreading fear everywhere.

The liberal activists who met at the independent Journalists' Syndicate on Tuesday called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to bring the funding of the Islamists under scrutiny. They said that some countries in the Gulf had wanted to mould Egyptians into accepting their own version of Islam.

"Egyptians have spent 150 years dreaming of establishing their own independent and civil state," said Abdel-Gelil Moustafa, a university professor and a political activist. "We will not let the Salafists distort and destroy our country that easily.”

Egypt Puts Mubarak On Trial, Transfixing Arab World

Los Angeles Times
Egypt puts Mubarak on trial, transfixing Arab world

August 3, 2011

The prosecutor in the trial of Egypt's ousted leader Hosni Mubarak accused the former president in court on Wednesday of involvement in the killing of protesters and allowing his interior minister to use live ammunition against them.

From Reuters

Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was wheeled into a courtroom cage in a hospital bed on Wednesday to face trial for killing protesters -- an image that thrilled those who overthrew him and must have chilled other Arab autocrats facing popular uprisings.

If convicted, Mubarak could face the death penalty.

Judge Ahmed Refaat called for quiet as he opened the trial of the former president, his two sons Alaa and Gamal, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six senior ex-officers.

A business executive and Mubarak confidant, Hussein Salem, is being tried in absentia.

"We need people to keep order and stay seated in order for us to perform our job and for justice to take its course," the judge said at the start of the trial. "All of us will face God with sound hearts and this is what we hope. May God help us."

Mubarak, 83, was toppled in February after 18 tumultuous days of popular protest. A military council took over, promising a transition to democracy -- a process far from complete.

Lawyers for Adli asked for the head of the council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and other political, military and security officials to be summoned as witnesses in the trial, shortly before the judge called a recess.

Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, in the white outfits of defendants, stood next to their father in the iron cage customarily used in criminal trials in Egypt.

Gamal, once viewed as being groomed for the presidency, leaned over to speak to his father, who had a stand with a drip beside him. Alaa, a businessman, seemed to be holding a Koran.

Charges range from conspiring to kill protesters to abusing office to amass wealth.

The trial, televised around the world, transfixed Egyptians and other Arabs, most of whom have spent their lives under authoritarian systems shaken by this year's wave of unrest.

"I'm so happy. I feel tomorrow will be better and that the next president knows what could happen to him if he goes against his people," Ahmed Amer, 30, a water utility employee, said outside the Cairo courtroom, where crowds had gathered.

They could watch proceedings on a giant screen erected outside. Pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters faced off, some hurling stones. Hundreds of police tried to calm them down.

At a small pro-Mubarak rally, people chanted: "Oh Mubarak, hold your head high" and "We will demolish the prison and burn it down, if Hosni Mubarak is sentenced."

Counter-chants of "Raise your voice, freedom will not die," rose from nearby group hostile to Mubarak.

Speculation had swirled before the trial about whether the frail 83-year-old, hospitalized in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh since April, would turn up in the Cairo court.

Ahmed Farghali, 24, among protesters who had gathered outside the Sharm el-Sheikh before Mubarak was flown to Cairo, said he could not believe he would see the president locked in a cage. "It was beyond my wildest dreams," he said.

For some of his opponents, Mubarak's appearance smacked of political theater to gain sympathy.

"Why is he on a stretcher? Is he handicapped? This is a playing on people's emotions so we can all start crying over an old man," Mohamed Naguib, 32, said in Sharm el-Sheikh, where some chanted: "The people want the execution of the killer."

Mubarak is the first Arab leader to stand trial in person since popular uprisings swept the region this year.

Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the first Arab leader to be ousted in the Arab Spring, was tried and sentenced to jail in absentia. He fled to Saudi Arabia. Iraq's Saddam Hussein was ousted by U.S.-led forces, then tried and hanged.

Mubarak was on trial with his two sons Gamal, a banker-turned-politician once seen as being groomed for the top office, and Alaa, who had business interests, as well as former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six senior officers.

Charges range from conspiring in the killing of protesters to abusing power to amass wealth.

Security was tightened in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Police and military officers in riot gear were deployed there, with dozens of police trucks and a few army armored personnel vehicles.

Protesters had camped out in Tahrir for three weeks in July seeking a swifter trial for Mubarak and other reforms. They feared the ruling generals would use Mubarak's illness as a ploy to avoid publicly humiliating the war veteran and ex-president who ran Egypt for 30 years until Feb. 11.

In his only public comments since quitting, Mubarak vowed in April to clear himself and his family from accusations of corruption. Few Egyptians believed they would see him in court.

"If you feel sympathy for any dictator broken and standing in a cage, remember him when he was unjust on the throne," Marian wrote on Twitter, using the website that became a tool in rallying the masses during the 18-day uprising against him.

The defendants were caged in a hall that can seat hundreds of people in the Police Academy, where Mubarak had praised the police two days before Egypt's revolt erupted on Jan. 25.

Police used live ammunition, rubber bullets and teargas on protesters in Cairo and other cities. In Suez, an effigy of Mubarak hangs from a lamp-post near the police station that was gutted by fire during street battles that raged there.

Egyptians blame Mubarak for economic policies they say filled the pockets of the rich while many of the nation's 80 million people scrabbled in squalor to feed their families. They are also angry at his repression of any opposition.

Yet some are reluctant to see a man who was a bomber pilot and then leader of the air force in the 1973 war with Israel put in the dock. Others are simply tired of the disruption protests have cause and want to return to their daily lives.

Activist and director Mohamed Diab wrote on Twitter that the trial was "likely to cause a big rift, just like after his second speech. Imagine Mubarak with white hair, weeping and collapsing in court".

Mubarak, who dyed his hair as he aged in office, had won over some Egyptians with his final speeches that focused on what he described as a lifetime of service. Others were angered by what they saw as his paternalistic and patronizing style.

When the army finally stepped in to take control and he was flown off to internal exile in Sharm el-Sheikh, the streets of the capital and other cities erupted into cheers.

*Photo: Jim Young / Reuters

Troops arrest 111 activists in & around Tahrir Square

CNN Arabic
مصر: اعتقال 111 بعد مواجهات مع الجيش بالتحرير

Aug. 4, 2011

القاهرة، مصر (CNN)-- أكد المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة، الذي يتولى السلطة مؤقتاً في مصر، أن قوات الجيش اعتقلت نحو 111 شخصاً، أثناء فض اعتصام لقوى سياسية بميدان التحرير مساء الاثنين، على خلفية قيام عدد ممن أسماهم بـ"البلطجية"، بالاعتداء على أفراد الجيش، مما أدى إلى سقوط بعض الجرحى.

وقال اللواء إسماعيل عتمان، عضو المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة، إنه ستتم إحالة هؤلاء "البلطجية" إلى النيابة العامة، وليس إلى النيابة العسكرية، "حتى لا يُقال إنهم سيُحاكمون عسكرياً"، وفق ما أورد موقع "أخبار مصر"، التابع للتلفزيون الرسمي.

وشدد عتمان، في مداخلة مع أحد البرامج التلفزيونية مساء الاثنين، على أن قوات الجيش لم تتعرض للمعتصمين، ولكن واجهت البلطجية الموجودين بالمكان حين بادروا بإلقاء الحجارة على القوات، وكان منهم من يحمل أسلحة بيضاء، منوهاً بأنه تم إصابة عدد من الجنود خلال هذه الأحداث.

كما نفى عضو المجلس العسكري وجود أية اعتصامات، في الوقت الحالي، أمام مسجد "عمر مكرم" بميدان التحرير، وسط العاصمة المصرية القاهرة، مؤكداً أن هدف القوات المسلحة هو "عودة الأمن والاستقرار إلى الوطن، مما يسهم في دفع عجلة الاقتصاد القومي."

Egypt: Troops forcefully disperse activists from Tahrir

The Associated Press
Egypt troops clash with activists in Tahrir Square



Egyptian troops clashed Monday with a small group of protesters camping out in Cairo's Tahrir Square to press demands for faster change and justice for demonstrators killed in the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

The clashes broke out after troops dismantled the protesters' tents on the square's median, witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or arrests. Troops backed by armored vehicles and hundreds of riot police used clubs to clear the square after protesters ignored pleas over loudspeakers to leave. Military police fired shots in the air and protesters hurled rocks.

The operation brought an end to nearly a month of renewed daily protests in the central square that was the birthplace of the 18-day uprising that overthrew Mubarak in February.

Several hundred demonstrators had rebuilt the round-the-clock protest camp there on July 8 to renew the pressure on Egypt's transitional military rulers to swiftly bring Mubarak and other members of his regime to trial.

After the army's clearing operation, vehicle traffic instantly returned to the busy interchange in the heart of downtown for the first time in weeks.

Egypt's activists, many of whom are suspicious of the ruling military council's pledges to bring genuine reforms, are demanding Mubarak loyalists be weeded out from key state institutions like the judiciary, police and civil service.

Mubarak's trial on charges he ordered the killing of protesters in the crackdown earlier this year is scheduled to start in Cairo on Wednesday. Seeing him and other members of his regime brought to public trial is a key demand of the protesters.

Monday's clashes came after a small group of protesters decided to continue the sit-in at Tahrir Square even though most groups decided to end it to mark the start this week of the holy month of Ramadan, when devout Muslims refrain from food, drink, smoking and sex from dawn to dusk.

After the confrontations, the square's median was covered with the personal belongings of the protesters and the tents' torn canvass.

Many of those who had remained at the square were relatives of some of the 850 protesters killed during the uprising.

The relatives and other protesters wanted to continue with the sit-in until Mubarak appears in the first hearing of his trial on Wednesday. Others wanted to stay at the square until all other demands are met.

Mubarak, his security chief and six top police officers could face the death sentence if convicted of ordering the use of lethal force against the protesters.