Leftist MP Ziad El-Eleimy (Photo: Mohamed Moustafa)
Roughly 300 protesters converged on parliament building Tuesday in solidarity with leftist MP Ziad El-Eleimy, who has been accused by his critics of insulting Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt's ruling military council.
Marchers had set out from Cairo's Tahrir Square at around 2pm bound for the nearby parliament building, in front of which they remained until 5pm.
The crowd carried a banner with El-Eleimy's picture, chanting "Down with military rule" and "What did Ziad do? Did he just state the truth?"
Sarah Essam, a 25-year-old activist, who came to support the leftist MP explained, "I am here in solidarity with El-Eleimy because we shouldn't allow the creation of another system, which immunises itself to criticism. Even if [El-Eleimy] crossed the line, his statements should never lead to an investigation or his expulsion from Parliament."
El-Eleimy in turn stepped out of parliament building to thank the protesters for their solidarity.
Activists, including members of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party to which El-Eleimy belongs, first issued calls for the march following the MP's show of contrition at Monday's parliamentary session for earlier comments made about Tantawi and a prominent Salafist preacher. El-Eleimy stirred controversy on Friday when, in a speech delivered in Port Said, he recited a well-known Egyptian proverb in which Tantawi was analogously characterised as a donkey.
The liberal MP later stressed that his use of the proverb was simply meant to imply that Egypt's ruling military council should be held accountable for what critics describe as its mismanagement of Egypt's post-revolution political scene and its mishandling of the deadly 1 February Port Said football tragedy.
In Monday's parliamentary session, El-Eleimy expressed regret to "whoever might have misinterpreted my statements." The half-hearted apology was met with applause by a handful of parliamentarians, although most MPs voted to uphold Parliament Speaker Saad El-Katatni's earlier decision to open an investigation into El-Eleimy's conduct.
A group of retired military officers, meanwhile, announced plans on Monday to march on parliament building the following day to denounce El-Eleimy's comments and demand his punishment.