in Cairo's Tahrir Square with a banner reading "Mubarak, the Army and the police are one force but the divine power and martyrs' blood are stronger than everything" (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
Thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday to express their disdain at the military council's handling of Egypt since assuming power from toppled president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February.
Political forces went as far as to give the military council until 6pm Friday to announce a specific timetable for handing over executive power to an elected, civil authority.
The ultimatum was delivered by activists speaking from one of the two stages erected for the occasion of today’s planned “Friday for Defending the Revolution” demonstrations.
As the day progressed and anger became focussed in a march to Maspero and the brutal death of Essam Atta in Tora Prison, the numbers swelled in the iconic square.
Split into two camps during the early afternoon - Salafists and revolutionary youth - the demands and chants going up around the square had much in common, according to our correspondent in the square. Protesters are denouncing the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) for allowing members of Mubarak's dismantled National Democratic Party to run in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
On the revolutionary youth stage, musician Ramy Essam, nicknamed the "singer of the revolution", performed songs against the SCAF.
The Salafists set up another stage on which Hazem Abu Ismail, a potential presidential candidate and prominent Salafist figure, addressed an audience of around 700 supporters from Nasr City. The Salafist leader used his address to attack the SCAF for creating instability in Egypt and breaking its promise that the interim period would last no longer than six months.
A large banner hanging over the stage of the Salafist group demanded that the SCAF set a timetable for presidential elections, criticised it for prolonging the interim period, commemorated the more than 1,000 martyrs of the revolution and condemned the US for supporting dictators around the world. Anti-US sentiment is running high among the group of Salafists - notable for breaking ranks and criticising the country's military rulers. Holding the US responsible for creating anarchy in Egypt, there are chants calling for the American ambassador to be expelled.
Another large banner dominated the square stating that "The people want the Treason Law implemented to ban the National Democratic Party." The former ruling party's death is also evoked by a coffin being carried among protesters.
At around 5pm, a 2,000 strong march set off from Tahrir to the state TV building in the nearby Maspero district demanding justice for the 26 Coptic Christian demonstrators killed there during 9 October clashes with army personnel. Protesters remained outside the building for half an hour before returning to the square.
The protesters also demanded justice for 24-year-old Essam Atta, the latest victim of police brutality in Egypt who died after being tortured by prison guards on Thursday. Chants rang out condemning police brutality in Egypt and the use of torture, which was rampant during the Mubarak regime and has continued under the military council's rule.
Atta was serving a two-year prison sentence in Tora Prison where guards tortured him for smuggling a mobile phone SIM card into his cell. He died of the injuries sustained from having water forced at high pressure into his mouth and anus through hoses.
As the march returned to Tahrir, protesters met with a funeral procession for Atta which was attended by thousands of mourners carrying his coffin from the morgue in the Sayeda Zeinab district following his autopsy. The crowd - numbering around 10,000 - held funeral prayers for Atta at the Omar Makram Mosque on Tahrir Square, in accordance with the wishes of his family.
Chants against Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi pierced the night's air as another day ended in which it was all too apparent that the former regime's brutality remains undimmed.