Egyptians rally, demand trials for police shooters
Cairo: Thousands of Egyptians, increasingly impatient with their interim military rulers, rallied Friday in the nation's two largest cities, ringing a security building with chants of "Oh police, you are thugs" and demanding trials for police officers suspected in the killing of hundreds of activists in the uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak.
Organizers of the protests, billed as the "Friday of Last Warning," said soaring temperatures were keeping many people away, but noted that in recent days, crowds have swelled after sunset. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's best-organized political group, did not attend.
For the past week, hundreds of hardcore activists have camped out at Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 18-day popular uprising that ousted Mubarak on Feb. 11. Their main demand is that the military council which took over after the uprising purge all remnants of the Mubarak regime.
"We want to cleanse the country's institution," one of the demonstrators, standing on a stage in a corner of the square and holding a microphone, told a group nearby. "Until we see the government officials (talking to protesters) in Tahrir, we will not leave this place."
"Bread, freedom and social justice," he chanted.
The protesters' frustration was reflected in new graffiti on the wall of Cairo's biggest government building which faces the square. "The revolution has protectors," read one slogan, referring to the protesters' determination to keep going until their demands are met. A second depicted the military council as hand holding a hammer crushing the "Egyptian will."
Another new drawing reflected widespread skepticism that Mubarak will be punished. The graffiti showed Mubarak dangling from a rope, with the caption: "Message from the military council: don't believe this drawing."
Mubarak and his two sons will be tried on August 3, over the killings of protesters and corruption charges. In a transcript of his interrogation published by two newspapers Thursday, the 83-year-old Mubarak denied any responsibility for the killing of nearly 900 protesters by his security forces. Mubarak, Egypt's president for three decades, is in custody in an Egyptian hospital.
"The revolution is not complete yet," said demonstrator Wael Malak, who temporarily closed his shop in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik because the political turmoil in Egypt led to a sharp drop in tourism. Malak complained of a lack of security in post-uprising Egypt.
A second protester, Salim Youssef, said the military only responds to public pressure and that marches must therefore continue.
Though Friday's crowd was smaller than usual, the number of tents and those camping in Tahrir Square increased since earlier in the week. Coils of barbed wire were added to makeshift security checkpoints set up at the entrances to the square. The checkpoints, staffed by volunteers, are meant to deter sudden attacks from assailants or a police crackdown.
In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, thousands of protesters rallied outside the local security headquarters, chanting: "O police you are thugs."
Some jumped over a high fence surrounding the building, the local branch of the Interior Ministry, tore down the police flag and replaced it with the Egyptian flag. They sprayed anti-police graffiti on the walls and covered the ministry's golden emblem with the words "The Ministry of Torture."
Some angry protesters tried to storm the building, but others prevented them while chanting "peaceful, peaceful."
Activists distributed leaflets listing names of police officers believed to have been involved in killings of protesters and torture. One of the protest groups, known as April 6, said a notorious police commander in Alexandria, known as the "flogger of the activists," had been promoted to a top security position in the city.
Security forces stayed away from Friday's protests.
Earlier this week, Egypt's security chief dismissed hundreds of high-ranking members of the security forces, including those charged in the killing of protesters.