Egypt's Islamist group to boycott major rally

May 26, 2011 - 10:44 AM

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said it will boycott a key rally critical of the military rulers on Friday, accusing the organizers of seeking to divide the nation after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

The rally's organizers — an array of youth groups and reformists — have called for a return to Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on Friday for a protest billed as "the second revolution of anger," to nudge Egypt's new military rulers toward faster democratic reforms.

Some have called for replacing the ruling military with a civilian council.

A Brotherhood statement late Wednesday said the protest calls "drive a wedge" between the people and the army, and undermine parliament elections scheduled for September in which the Islamists are poised to make major gains.

The Brotherhood said the performance of the military council is less than ideal.

But "the practical way to push for a speedy and ideal performance would be by helping and evaluation, not through confrontation and accusation of treason, or by driving a wedge between the people and its national army, which is the main supporter for the success of the revolution," it said.

The statement irked protesters.

Activist Hossam Hamalawi, a socialist, said it amounted to accusations of treason. "The statement included accusations that we are more or less traitors to the revolution, that we have our own agenda. They are using the same language of the old regime," he said.

Calls on Facebook urged a return to the square for a protest dubbed, "I have not felt the change. I am going back to Tahrir."

Despite the recent indictment of Mubarak on charges of conspiring to kill protesters during the uprising, there is a growing sense of mistrust among some groups that backed the revolution.

Many want to see a speedy trial of former regime officials, the removal of Mubarak loyalists from government offices and an end to the military trials of civilians, which have ended in thousands of prosecutions.

On Thursday, lawyer Ragia Omran said three activists were detained near Tahrir Square for hanging posters about the protest; a security official said five were detained.

The Supreme Armed Forces Council had warned earlier that "dubious" elements may try to cause chaos during Friday's protests.

In it most recent statement, the Council said Thursday that the right to peaceful protest is guaranteed. "The armed forces is from and for the people. Its protection of the revolution since it was launched was out of conviction of that principle," the statement said.

Meanwhile, the country's ex-housing minister was convicted of corruption on Thursday and sentenced to five years in prison for illegally selling 18 acres of state land at cut-rate prices to an Egyptian businessman.

The official Middle East news Agency said Ahmed Maghrabi was found guilty of intentionally damaging public finances. He is the third former regime official to be convicted on corruption charges.

The businessman, Mounir Ghabbour, received a one-year suspended sentence. The court ordered the men to repay a total of $12 million (72 million Egyptian pounds) and fined them the same amount.

Some two dozen Cabinet ministers and businessmen linked to the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak face corruption charges.

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Associated Press Writer Maamoun Youssef contributed to this report.