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Africa

Activists mark one year since army launched protest crackdown

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-01-28

Thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square for what activists called "the Friday of Pride and Dignity", demanding speedier democratic reform on the day marking one year since the army moved in to crush anti-Mubarak protests.

AFP - Thousands of protesters thronged Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to demand democratic change, vowing to revive their unfinished revolution a year after they toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

They marched from across the capital to join thousands in Tahrir, the symbolic heart of the uprising, on a day dubbed "the Friday of Pride and Dignity" by the dozens of pro-democracy groups organising the rallies.

Friday marked a year since the army was deployed on the "day of anger" to control the deadly protests calling for an end to Mubarak's regime.

The military took power when Mubarak resigned on February 11, in a dramatic turn of events for the Arab world's most populous nation, which had known the same president for 30 years.

But a year later, many are disenchanted and even angry at the military, which protesters accuse of human rights abuses and of reneging on promised reforms.

"Down with military rule!" shouted marchers.

"Legitimacy comes from the square," they chanted, clapping and waving flags.

Thousands also marched towards the state television building in Maspero, just blocks from Tahrir, demanding the "cleansing" of state media, which they accuse of incitement against the protesters.

In Tahrir, crowds had gathered in prayer in the centre of the square, among the tents that marked a sit-in launched on Wednesday, the first anniversary of the uprising.

But as the day progressed, splits emerged between the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and anti-military protesters who accused the long-banned Islamist group of colluding with the military to protect their new-found power.

The Brotherhood, which won a crushing victory in parliamentary elections contested over three months, had occupied one part of the square where the mood was celebratory.

On the other side, the chants were strongly anti-military.

Protesters shouted "traitors!" at the Islamists, prompting minor scuffles between the two sides.

The Brotherhood responded by playing verses from the Koran through loudspeakers on their stage, before switching to the national anthem in a bid to restore calm.

"None of the goals of the revolution has been achieved. What are they celebrating for... because they won seats in parliament?" said Fahd Ibrahim, an anti-military protester.

But a Muslim Brotherhood member insisted the two camps had the same aims.

"We are here to mark one year since January 25. We also want to push for the goals of the revolution," said Essam Elsawy. "We want the same thing, but each is taking a different route."

Pro-democracy groups are planning several activities for Saturday, including more marches and another demonstration in Tahrir Square.

Protesters are all demanding an end to military trials of civilians, the restructuring of the interior ministry and a guarantee of freedoms and social justice.

But Islamists have been less vocal in demanding the military step down.

Earlier in Tahrir, Sheikh Mazhar Shahin, the imam leading weekly Muslim prayers, said that while the revolt had made impressive gains, the journey towards democratic rule was far from over.

"People came out on January 25, 2011 to call for freedom, justice, dignity and the end of a regime that spread all forms of corruption," Shahin told the crowd.

"They managed to remove the head of the regime in just 18 days and put some of its symbols behind bars. However, the revolution has not achieved all its goals and that is what brought people out on the streets again."

Mubarak is on trial in Cairo, facing accusations of involvement in the killing of protesters. His two sons, Alaa and Gamal, and several of his ministers are also in custody on charges of corruption.

But the trials have been criticised as politically motivated, aimed more at placating an angry public rather than providing justice.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has vowed to cede power to civilian rule by June when a new president has been elected, and has repeatedly pointed to the parliamentary elections as proof of its intention to abandon politics.

But protesters accuse the military of seeking to maintain some degree of control over Egypt even after June.

On Tuesday, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi announced the partial lifting of a decades-old state of emergency in an apparent bid to placate protesters.

But he said the law would still apply to cases of "thuggery," a move criticised by human rights groups and activists, who say the term is too broad and gives authorities free rein to stifle freedoms.

Leading dissident and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has proposed a new political timetable that calls for parliament "to elect an interim president immediately," followed by the formation of a panel to draft a new constitution.

In a statement on his Facebook page, ElBaradei said the new charter "must define the political system and guarantee a civil state, rights and freedoms" following "a year of fumbling."

 

Date created : 2012-01-28

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