The First Conference of Egypt opening session. Photographer: Bassam El-Zoghby
Over 3000 activists from across the political spectrum called during the First Conference of Egypt for the release of detainees who have been held captive since the January 25 Revolution, and disparaged the referral of civilians to military courts. Some speeches stirred anger on social network sites.
The protesters started to chant their demands right after Minister of Local Governance Mohsen Al-Nomani took to the podium to give a speech. The angry attendees, who also chanted against new legislation criminalising sit-ins and strikes, interrupted Al-Nomani three times.
“No military trials for civilians!”, “We want our detained brothers!” and “The legitimacy belongs to the revolution and the people!” were among the slogans that echoed at the Cairo International Conference Centre.
Despite recurrent interruptions, Al-Nomani finished his speech, during which he underlined that the interim government’s role is to ensure a smooth transition of power.
On the other hand, Tahani Al-Gebali, the first Egyptian female judge, gave speech that touched on several sensitive and controversial issues, and which drew sharp criticism against her on Twitter.
She stressed that Islamic Sharia is the only legitimate jurisprudence, which contradicts with the principles of liberals and Copts who want the nation to be civic and not religious based.
Al-Gebali also highlighted the importance of the ruling military council’s responsibility to protect the civic nation, also another highly debatable topic.
Around 2500 were expected to attend the first session of the conference, whose slogan was “The people defend their revolution,” but the number of actual attendees was in the area of 4000.
Most Egyptian political forces are taking part in the event, except the Muslim Brotherhood, who decided to snub the conference despite their willingness to be present at the official, government-sponsored national dialogue.