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Egyptians back on the streets over slow transition

Pro-democracy activists have expressed their fury over continued military trials of civilians.



Cairo: Five months after the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians are being asked to return to the streets for new mass protests amid frustration over the military rulers` handling of a promised transition to democracy.

Hailed as heroes for not siding with Mubarak during the January 25 uprising, the ruling military council has increasingly become the target of protesters` anger.

Pro-democracy activists have expressed their fury over continued military trials of civilians.

They say police officials responsible for repression before and during the revolt are still showing up for work.

And some take issue with the military`s timetable for elections and the drafting of a new Constitution.

"We want real cleansing, real trials, real government," said the Coalition of Revolution Youth, a grouping of pro-democracy movements that helped launch the revolt.

"I want to see real change," said Mustafa Shawki, one of the coalition members in a video posted on their Facebook page. "We must be clear, politics is not for the army."

Another Facebook group "We are all Khaled Said" -- named after a man who died after being beaten by police last year and has become a symbol of the fight against police brutality -- insisted that "this country must change."

The group, which has nearly 1.5 million members said "those found guilty of corruption must be brought to justice”.

The National Association for Change, founded around leading dissident and former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, called for an end to "the repressive methods of the old regime”.

Rallies are planned around the country on Friday, including in Cairo`s Tahrir Square -- the epicentre of the protests that toppled Mubarak in February.

But the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which has disassociated itself from several previous demonstrations, said it would also stay away from the July 08 rally.

"We will not be joining Friday`s protest," Mahmud Ghozlan, a Brotherhood spokesman, said.

"There has been a lot of trouble on the streets lately, with clashes, thugs. We do not want to get involved in that," he said.

The more fundamentalist Salafi groups however, said they would join the protest, listing the same demands as the secular pro-democracy groups.

On Monday, clashes erupted in Cairo when a court bailed seven police officers accused of killing protesters during the revolt, reviving the anger of activists who demand that the police be brought to justice.

Routine police torture and abuse during the Mubarak era was a driving force behind the January 25 uprising.

Last week, violent clashes erupted around Cairo, culminating in a confrontation in Tahrir Square between the police and around 4,000 protesters including families of some of those who died during the anti-regime protests.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces -- led by Mubarak-era defence minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi -- has sought to calm the situation by announcing the creation of a fund to assist victims` families, which it said on Monday would be worth about USD 16 million.

Officials say 850 people died in the January-February uprising, and at least 6,000 people were injured.

The increasing number of military trials -- up from 7,000 to 10,000 since February according to local and international human rights groups -- has further enraged pro-democracy activists, who have made the end of military trials for civilians a key demand of Friday`s protest.

The military council has set Parliamentary Elections for September, but some fear early polls will benefit the well entrenched Muslim Brotherhood.

Others have called for a new Constitution before elections, so as not to give the Islamist group too much influence in drafting the charter.

The military council`s number two, General Sami Enan, has vowed the elections will be "free and fair".

Bureau Report

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