Friday, April 13, 2012

Egypt Islamists Rally Against Candidates From Mubarak Era

Egypt Islamists rally against ex-regime candidates

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) — Thousands of Islamists packed Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to pressure the country's ruling generals to bar Hosni Mubarak-era officials, including his former spy chief, from running in the upcoming presidential elections.

The demonstration came a day after the Islamist-dominated parliament passed a new bill stripping senior Mubarak regime figures — such as his ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman — from the right to run for office for the next 10 years. But the ruling military council must ratify the bill before it can go into effect.

The Muslim Brotherhood, along with ultraconservative Salafis and other Islamists, rallied their supporters Friday in the capital's Tahrir Square, which was the epicenter of the uprising that ousted Mubarak a year ago.

The parliament's move was part of the jostling for power between the country's top political players: Islamists who won majority of parliament seats in November elections and the military generals who took over after Mubarak.

The confrontation between the two sides escalated after the ruling council, which enjoys presidential powers, kept refusing over the past month to allow the Brotherhood to form the country's new government. The Brotherhood then accused the military of trying to sabotage its political gains by handing it a parliament stripped of real powers.

Eventually, the Brotherhood reversed its pledge not to field a candidate in the presidential elections, set for May 23-24. The group made the promise a year ago, to assure liberals and Western allies that it doesn't intent to dominate Egypt.

The Brotherhood on March 31 announced it was fielding its chief strategist, Khairat el-Shater, as the group's presidential nominee. In what was seen as a counter move, backed by the military generals, Suleiman announced his candidacy and said in remarks published in a newspaper interview that he wants to stop Islamists from turning Egypt into a religious state.

Suleiman was Mubarak's most trusted man and was appointed as his vice president briefly during the 18-day Egyptian revolution that toppled the former president in February 2011.

In a recent interview, El-Shater told The Associated Press that he fears fraud during upcoming presidential elections would produce a "new Mubarak."

In Tahrir on Friday, chants of "the people want to down the Marshal" rang across the square, referring to the head of the ruling military council Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. Many held banners with pictures of Suleiman and another Mubarak-era presidential candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, with their faces crossed out.

Liberals and youth movements that engineered the revolution boycotted the rally and said they are holding their separate protest next week.

The chasm between liberals and Islamists deepened over the past year. The Muslim Brotherhood initially stayed away and sometimes condemned youth street protests against the military's violations of human rights and repressive policies in detaining and trying civilians before military tribunals.

Later, the two camps collided when Islamists used their majority in parliament to pack a 100-member panel tasked with writing Egypt's new constitution with its followers, prompting the liberals and others to boycott the panel. This week, a Cairo court ruled in favor of the liberals' demand to disband the panel.

Egypt’s Brotherhood calls for rallies against Omar Suleiman

Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:34AM GMT

The Muslim Brotherhood has called on Egyptians to attend mass demonstrations against the spy chief of Hosni Mubarak’s ousted regime who has entered the race for presidential election.

"This is an attempt by the remnants of the regime to try to bring back the fallen era. It is seeking to thwart the revolution and return to the era before January 25," Muslim Brotherhood Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein said in comments published on the movement's website on Wednesday.

The group announced that it would hold protests on Friday to "protect the revolution" from the Mubarak-era officials who may make a comeback.

Muslim Brotherhood added that the new developments could destroy the country's unfinished revolution.

Omar Suleiman, who served as the head of Egypt's General Intelligence Department for 18 years registered as one of the presidential hopefuls last week.

Many consider Suleiman a favorite of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has ruled Egypt since Mubarak's downfall in February 11, 2011.

The Brotherhood’s candidate Khairat al-Shater, who risks disqualification for serving a prison term under Mubarak, has said that Suleiman’s presidential bid could spark a second revolution in the country.

"I consider his entry an insult to the revolution and the Egyptian people," al-Shater said on Sunday, hours after Suleiman filed his candidacy.

He also likened Suleiman's candidacy to an effort "to steal the revolution".

The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party has also fielded a reserve candidate in case al-Shater gets disqualified by the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission that is supported by the military rulers.

The polls are scheduled to be held in two rounds. The first would be held over two days on May 23 and 24, while a run-off, if necessary, would take place on June 16 and 17. Final results are expected on June 21.

Egyptian protesters set fire to ministry building

Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:24PM GMT

Egyptian protesters have torched a military intelligence building on the Libyan border one day after deadly clashes with security forces killed two people.

Angry protesters in the border town of Sallum set fire to a military intelligence building on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, heavy clashes between Egyptian security forces and protesters left two people dead and four others injured.

The unrest came after residents blocked a motorway to Libya to protest security restrictions on cross-border traffic and increased tolls for trucks traveling on the road.

However, local witnesses told AP some of those who torched the intelligence ministry headquarters were upset over former spy chief, Omar Suleiman's, decision to run for president.

Suleiman served as the Egyptian intelligence minister during Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorial regime. He was also appointed vice president in January 2011 when the revolution gained momentum. He was directly involved in the killing of protesters.

Mubarak was forced to step down on February 11, 2011.

Egypt’s military rulers say they will hand over power after the results of a presidential election slated for June.

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