Brawl erupts ahead of Moussa news conference

Ahram Online, Saturday 12 May 2012

Protesters claim that Amr Moussa's campaigners assaulted them as they were rallying outside a press conference, which the presidential hopeful's campaigners vehemently deny

Amr Moussa
File Photo of Amr Moussa speaking in a public rally Photo: Al-Ahram

Violent clashes broke out ahead of a press conference where presidential hopeful, Amr Moussa, was announcing his platform in Beni Suef city, south of Cairo late Friday.

Protesters claim the former foreign minister's campaigners started the fight outside the hall, while a spokesman of the campaign categorically denies the accusation.

Al-Ahram's Arabic-language portal reported that a number of revolutionary groups, including the Socialist People's Alliance, the Revolutionary Socialists and Ultras Ahlawy group – Ahly Club's hardcore fan group – rallied outside the Saeed El-Nagar Garden, where the conference took place, to voice their objections to Moussa's visit to Beni Suef.

Protesters, men and women alike, were reportedly assaulted.

Some of the demonstrators accused Moussa's campaigners of initiating an assault against them, with a few accounts saying unknown gunmen also fired rounds in the air to terrorise protesters.

Waleed Hassan, a member of the Socialist People's Alliance who took part in the anti-Moussa rally, was quoted by Al-Ahram's Arabic site as saying: "Moussa's campaigners brutally attacked us."

He added: "Some unidentified armed men fired their weapons as police simply watched outside the conference hall."

Al-Ahram's Arabic site reported that at least two members of Ultras Ahlawy were injured in the melee.

"After we transported the injured to a hospital, the police arrested three of them and took them to a police station for questioning," said Hassan.

The prosecution released two of the detainees, Abdullah Mohamed and Ahmed Mohamed, after officially charging them with damaging a vehicle during the scuffle, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic site.

The webiste also reports that Moussa's campaign coordinator in Beni Suef, Ahmed El-Maltvehemently denied that his fellow campaigners were involved in the turmoil.

"A lot of fights flare up during conferences held by presidential contenders, and that's what happened yesterday," he said on Saturday. "But we [Moussa's campaign] did not engage with anyone."

The conference proceeded as planned, with Moussa tackling several issues, including the soaring unemployment rate in Egypt, saying that economic growth would be the real remedy of the chronic problem.

"The right policies must be set in order to attract Arab and foreign and investors," he said. "We also need to rehabilitate Egyptian employees to be up to international standards on the labour market, which requires the development of education."

Moussa, who is according to independent polls, deemed a frontrunner in Egypt's looming presidential race, has been lambasted by many revolutionary forces who object to his candidacy because he was part of the deposed Mubarak regime.

The 75-year-old served as a foreign minister under Mubarak from 1991 to 2001 before he was installed as the secretary general of the Arab League, a position he abandoned shortly after the revolution upon announcing his intention to run for president.

His critics believe he would represent an extension of the Mubarak regime should he win.

Mubarak was deposed in February 2011 in the wake of an 18-day uprising.

Egypt’s first post-Mubarak presidential election is slated for 23 and 24 May, with a runoff vote to be held on 16 and 17 June in the event that no single candidate wins an outright majority. Egypt’s next president will be formally named on 21 June.

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