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Africa

Islamists arrested during nationwide protest

Latest update : 2009-04-06

Egyptian police said they arrested 12 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood at a protest called by pro-democracy groups. The "day of anger" on Monday began with a walkout on PM Ahmed Nazif at parliament.

AFP - Egyptian police were out in force on Monday to deal with a nationwide protest called by pro-democracy groups, arresting Islamists and containing small demonstrations in the capital, Cairo.
   
Around 100 opposition MPs, mainly from the banned Muslim Brotherhood, walked out of parliament to mark the "day of anger" when Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif began to speak, although there were no reports of mass protests.
   
"Police have been given the order to arrest anyone taking part in demonstrations. Extra security forces are deployed around sensitive sites in Cairo and around the country," a security official told AFP.
   
During a protest in Cairo's Ain Shams University, eight people were injured during clashes between opposition students and pro-government students. Police arrested 15 students, a security official said.
   
Another security source said that 12 members of the influential Brotherhood were arrested at different locations around the country as they were preparing protest signs.
   
The Muslim Brotherhood has endorsed the protest, calling on all to "express their anger and objection to the policies of the regime which has squandered the country's riches, neglected its national security and removed Egypt from its role as leader and pioneer."
   
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, is formally banned but fielded independent candidates in 2005 elections, winning a fifth of seats in parliament.
   
Around 300 opposition activists gathered outside the journalists' syndicate in downtown Cairo, shouting "Down, down (President Hosni) Mubarak" while penned in by dozens of police, an AFP correspondent reported.
   
Protest organisers blamed the low turnout on police threats. "There was a problem with the police warning citizens not to join the demonstrations," said Abdel Halim Qandil, coordinator of the Kifaya opposition group.
   
Some passersby said they felt disconnected from the protesters. "This talk brings no results which citizens like me can see. They are just letting off steam," said a man who gave his name as Mustapha.
   
Uniformed and plainclothes police also deployed in Mahalla, a Nile Delta city where deadly riots erupted exactly a year ago during a similar protest against price hikes and low salaries.
   
Monday's protest, dubbed "The Day of Anger in Egypt," was called by the April 6 Movement, a group of young activists formed last year after a similar call for action on the same date.
   
The activists have two main demands -- setting the national minimum monthly wage at 1,200 Egyptian pounds (213 dollars) and electing a body to draft a new constitution, the organisers said.
   
The current minimum wage in Egypt is 167 Egyptian pounds (29 dollars).
   
Ayman Nur, Egypt's best-known political dissident who was freed from prison in February after more than three years behind bars, listed demands that he wanted satisfied within a year's time.
   
They include drafting a new constitution, ending emergency laws and being allowed to form political parties without restrictions.
   
"If (the demands) are unheeded by April 6, 2010 we will prepare for a general strike in all of Egypt," Nur told a rally of around 50 of his supporters in Cairo accompanied by a similar number of police.
   
Egypt has lived under emergency laws, forbidding most demonstrations, allowing for arbitrary arrest and for civilians to be tried by military courts, since the 1981 assassination of president Anwar Sadat.
   
This year's April 6 protest, as was the case last year, gained support mainly through the online social networking site Facebook and SMS text messages.
   
Three people died and hundreds were detained during the 2008 strike.
   
Police arrested more than 30 people ahead of the latest protest, including three students on Sunday in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria for distributing posters calling for the day of action.
   
 

Date created : 2009-04-06

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