Egypt Islamists fill Tahrir to protest Mubarak figures' presidential bids

Zeinab Al Gundy, Friday 13 Apr 2012

In the wake of his repeated criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood, ex-intelligence chief Omar Suleiman got the lion's share of the protesters' offensive chants

Thousands lambasted Omar Suleiman and Ahmed Shafiq for applying to run for the presidency (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Hundreds of thousands of mostly Islamist protesters have congregated in Tahrir Square on Friday to show their opposition to remnants of the former regime, in a protest that was jointly called for by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Front.

The mass demonstration, which also featured members of the Nour party, the Wasat party, Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya's Building and Development party and the Fadila party, was named “the Friday of Protecting the Revolution" under the slogan of "the only demand – together against the remnants of the former regime."

The main demand of the protesters came in the form of flat rejection of the presidential candidacy of senior members of the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, especially former vice president Omar Suleiman, who recently announced his intention to run for president and got the lion's share of offensive chants as a result.

Most protesters called for the trial of Suleiman, who also served under Mubarak as chief of intelligence. A number of former regime figures, including Mubarak himself, have faced trials in the revolution’s aftermath.

As well as being part of the old regime, Suleiman’s critics also highlighted that he has served Israel's best interests.

Muslim Brotherhood MP Mohamed El-Beltagy said from the podium, "Omar Suleiman and [former regime figure and potential presidential candidate] Ahmed Shafiq have been rejected since the revolution; it is completely unacceptable that one of them assume power now." He added: "We need a civic nation, not military one."

Thousands of protesters chanted throughout the day, "Omar Suleiman, you are the agent of the Americans” "Yes for Omar Suleiman as a president for Israel" "Omar Suleiman has lost his mind and wants to become the president" "Suleiman, you belong in prison" and "Israel is safe under Omar Suleiman."

Former Arab League secretary-general, Amr Moussa, and Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, were both lambasted for serving under the deposed president.

SCAF, Azhar Grand Imam under fire

Many other chants resounded in Tahrir throughout the day, some which were against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), such as the well-known slogan "down, down with military rule."  

It is widely believed that Suleiman is backed by the SCAF, particularly since his appearance to officially register his candidacy was marked by the heavy presence of military police.

Two major stages have been set up in the square, one by members of the Brotherhood and the other by supporters of Salafist presidential hopeful Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail.

The latter's campaign received a boost on Thursday when he obtained an official document showing that his late mother held only Egyptian citizenship, in contrast to earlier reports that she was also an American citizen. Candidates’ parents and grandparents must be Egyptian citizens only in order to run for the country's top office.

Brotherhood protesters wore caps and shirts proclaiming their allegiance. Many have apparently travelled to Cairo from other governorates on buses hired by the powerful Islamist group.

MPs from the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), led lengthy marches from Giza, as well as Cairo's downtown, which converged on Tahrir after Friday's midday prayers.

The Brotherhood protesters accused the former regime and the SCAF of being behind all the clashes that have taken place between Muslim and Christians, as well as the clashes between protesters and security forces whether around the Maspero state television and radio building or in Mohamed Mahmoud Street.

Supporters of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, jailed in the US for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center attack, are also in the square, continuing their long-standing campaign for his freedom and return to Egypt.

Scholars from Al-Azhar also called for the departure of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb, because he has held the position since the Mubarak era. Some of them pointed out that he used to issue fatwas (Islamic legal rulings) in accordance with the interests of the former regime.

Commenting on the day, Islamist researcher Ibrahim El-Houdaiby, who was also one of the protesters, told Ahram Online, "returning back to the square to express the rejection by the people of Omar Suleiman is great, regardless of the identity of those participating in the protest."

The April 6 Movement has called for a "Friday of Determination" a week later on 20 April, in order to unite different forces together over key revolutionary grievances.

The first demand, the movement explained, is the rewriting of Article 28 of the military-authored Constitutional Declaration.

The Article states that the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) is not subject to judicial authority.

This means the body tasked with supervising the presidential elections is not legally obliged to obey any court ruling and is solely responsible for its decisions, including the elimination of presidential candidates.

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