Egyptians rally ahead of anniversary of uprising
CAIRO (AP) — Several thousand Egyptians marched to Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday ahead of the one-year anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, demanding justice and retribution for those killed in clashes with security forces.
Activists have organized the demonstrations as part of a week of "mourning and anger" around the Jan. 25 anniversary to rally support for their call to end military rule. They say the generals who took power after Mubarak's fall have continued the policies of the toppled regime.
The military has tried to counter what some protesters have dubbed "the second revolution" by using state-run media to accuse protesters of receiving foreign funding to destabilize Egypt and by calling for celebrations on the one-year anniversary of the uprising to boost the military's image as the nation's true patriots.
While many Egyptians support the military and believe it is the only entity able to run the country until presidential elections slated before the end of June, activists say that the ruling generals, led by Mubarak's defense minister of 20 years, have continued the policies of the toppled regime and are trying to derail the democratic process.
On Friday, protesters in Cairo set out from different neighborhoods in the city of some 18 million people and descended on Tahrir Square, which served as the epicenter of the 18-days of protests that pushed Mubarak from power on Feb. 11.
Shaimaa Zein, a 24-year old protester in Tahrir wearing a scarf in the colors of the Egyptian flag, held a sign demanding the military be held accountable for the deaths of 100 people who have been killed in clashes with security forces since the generals took over from Mubarak.
"When we went down on Jan. 25, people were against us at first and then they called us the generation that broke barriers when Mubarak resigned," she said. "But the dictatorship is the same."
Women also marched through central Cairo demanding Egypt's ruling military step down in a continued show of outrage against soldiers who dragged women by the hair and stomped on them during a fierce crackdown on activists last month.
One protester in Tahrir carried a poster depicting the former president with a noose around neck, echoing a demand by some that Mubarak be executed for the deaths of more than 800 protesters killed during the revolt.
Mubarak, his ex-security chief Habib el-Adly and four top security officers are charged with complicity in the killings of the protesters, and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Activists say that court officials have generally been lax with police officers accused of shootings during the uprising, allowing many to stay on the job while facing murder charges and setting others free on bail.
Only one policeman has been convicted in more than a dozen court cases over the deaths of at least 846 people killed in the government crackdown on protesters. He was tried in absentia and upon his return to Egypt recently was granted a retrial.
By contrast, human rights activists say that minor offenders and protesters are referred to military tribunals — known for quick and harsh sentences without proper due process.
Activists say they will use the one-year anniversary of the start of the uprising as a day to continue protests to counter attempts by the country's military rulers to mark it a day of celebration.
"It's another pressure point to prove that the street is alive and that the street still has legitimacy, despite parliamentary elections," she said.
The military oversaw Egypt's recent elections, in which Islamist groups won nearly 70 percent of parliament's 498 seats. The vote was deemed the freest and fairest in Egypt's modern history.