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Egyptians pack Tahrir Square to protest Shafiq bid, Mubarak verdict

Tahrir Square was filled by demonstrators on Tuesday evening, as the Muslim Brotherhood, youth revolutionary groups and presidential candidates led protests against Mubarak verdicts and Ahmed Shafiq

Sarah Mourad, Randa Ali, Tuesday 5 Jun 2012
Tahrir Square
Hundreds of thousands of protesters assembled in Tahrir Square (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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On Tuesday evening, marches from all over Cairo converged on Tahrir Square, leaving the square packed with demonstrators late into the night.

The demonstrations were launched in protest at the verdicts in the trial of ex-president Hosni Mubarak, his sons and his senior associates, as well as the candidacy of Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last premier, in the presidential election runoff.

The mass protests were called for by many political forces, including the April 6 Youth Movement, and former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi, Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, and Khalid Ali. The Muslim Brotherhood had also called for the protests, and their presence was strongly felt in the square.

Repeated mass protests have been taking place in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt since the verdicts in the Mubarak trial were announced on Saturday. The former president and his interior minister, Habib El-Adly, were sentenced to life in prison, while the other defendants were acquitted, causing controversy.

Protesters were also angry that Mubarak's former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, had finished second in the first round of the presidential race, putting him into the runoff round with Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. Many revolutionaries argue that he is not eligible to run, according to the Political Disenfranchisement Law, which would exclude those who worked in the Mubarak government in the last ten years from holding public office.

Sabbahi and Abul-Fotouh led a march of thousands to Tahrir at 6pm from Mustafa Mahmoud mosque in Giza. Several thousand protesters also marched from Al-Fatah mosque in Ramses Square in downtown Cairo to the same destination, led by presidential candidate Khalid Ali.

Ali told Ahram Online in Tahrir Square: "All presidential contenders have been calling for the implementation of the Political Disenfranchisement Law since before the elections were underway, and not only after the end of the first round."

In the same march, members of the April 6 Youth Movement were present, holding aloft their trademark black flag emblazoned with a white fist.

Egyptian Social Democratic Party MP Ziad El-Eleimi and MP Essam Sultan of Al-Wasat Party also led protests to the square.

Other political figures were also present, including activists Ahmed Harara and Alaa Abdel-Fattah.  

Harara, who lost both of his eyes after being shot while protesting on two different occasions since the start of the uprising, told Ahram Online on the way to Tahrir: "The prospect of having a presidential council is very possible, even if Morsi is not part of it."

"It's about principles and not individuals."

On liberal opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, Harara stated: "He has always supported the idea of the presidential council before, and I think he will do so today as well."

Abdel-Fattah, who was also in the Mustafa Mahmoud march, told Ahram Online: "I hope the Political Disenfranchisement Law is implemented. If the runoffs roll around and nothing has happened and there isn't enough street pressure to abort elections, I'll vote for Morsi."

In the early evening, several thousand people were present, some bringing their children. At one point, a little girl climbed on the single stage erected in the square and began chanting against Shafiq.

The mood was energetic and relaxed. In another part of the square, protesters were heard chanting: "One hand in the square," and "Freedom is coming."

Some seemed to be calling for the dismissal of Egypt's prosecutor-general, Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, and others decried attempts by the former regime to return to public office.

Mahmoud Fathi, a protester in his 60s, told Ahram Online that the Political Disenfranchisement Law should be applied to prevent Ahmed Shafiq from entering the runoffs.

"It is unacceptable, after a revolution that has brought its share of martyrs, to vote Shafiq into office," he said.

Sahar Saleh, a young pharmacist, said that she was attending because public pressure is important. "Political forces should take a revolutionary stand, in order to prevent a repeat of last year's scenes." 

At around 7pm, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters entered the square, unfurling banners that read: "The homeland is in danger," and: "No to the felool [the remnants of the deposed regime]."

Thousands of protesters also marched through several other governorates, including Alexandria, Minya, Gharbiya and Ismailiya, echoing the same demands that were heard in Cairo.

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