Entries in Tahrir Square (32)


Protests Swell in Response to President Morsi's Power Grab

AFP/GettyImages(CAIRO) -- Waves of protesters poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square Tuesday to protest the far-reaching constitutional declaration made by President Mohammed Morsi last week that has essentially granted him unchecked power.

The new declaration frees Morsi, who replaced deposed president Hosni Mubarak in the wake of Arab Spring protests, from judicial oversight. With no parliament currently in place, many said one longtime dictator had simply been substituted with another.

“This is the first step for tyranny, he’s trying to put all the power in his hands and this is against the constitution and the law,” said Hassan Gamal, a professor of orthopedic surgery. “No exceptions for anybody. Mubarak was tyrant because of the exceptions. We’re not going to tolerate any exceptions anymore.”

Liberal groups had called for the mass protest against Morsi, many of which have long complained of Islamists’ strength in post-Mubarak Egypt, led by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Protesters today said they were afraid of the constitution being written by an Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly, which will be put to a referendum once finished.

“The Muslim Brotherhood, they say something and then do the opposite,” said English teacher Nadine Mustafa. “We are in the 21st century, we want democracy, we don’t want a pharaoh ruining the country. This is ridiculous.”

Morsi’s office published the seven-article declaration on Thursday, the second of which states that Morsi’s laws and decrees “are final and binding and cannot be appealed by any way or to any entity” until the constitution is approved and a parliament elected.

Violence immediately broke out with clashes between Morsi opponents, supporters and police leading to more than 500 injuries and at least three deaths. To prevent more violence, the Muslim Brotherhood on Monday night cancelled their own rallies planned for Tuesday, though supporters did turn out in Alexandria.

“He’s a president that was elected to office with no constitution, no parliament and no defined powers in the state. It’s an exceptional circumstance,” argued Muslim Brotherhood senior adviser Jihad Haddad, who accused Mubarak-appointed judges of blocking Morsi’s attempts to reform the country’s institutions.

Morsi’s office insisted that the powers are only temporary. Haddad said the declaration will only be valid until a draft of the constitution is submitted.

Copywright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egyptian 'Coup' Dissolves Parliament

Egyptian presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq attends a press conference in Cairo. (AFP/GettyImages)(CAIRO) -- In the final days before this weekend's landmark presidential run-off election, Thursday brought a pair of decisions that threw Egypt's fledgling democracy into doubt.

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that one third of the Muslim Brotherhood-led Parliament must be immediately dissolved. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the country's ruling military, quickly declared full legislative authority, saying that if a portion of the parliament was unconstitutional, that rendered the entire parliament unconstitutional.

"We saw a coup in Egypt today," said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha center. "It was an all out power grab. The regime's apparatus is going into full force. And so far, it's a remarkable and successful coup."

In the second ruling, the Mubarak-appointed judges voted that Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt's former interim prime minister during the revolution, will be allowed to remain on the ballot in the run-off election against the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi, scheduled for June 16 and 17.

"All this equals a complete coup d'etat through which the military council is writing off the most noble stage in the nation's history," Mohamed el-Beltagy, a senior member of Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, wrote on his Facebook wall. "This is the Egypt which Shafiq and the military council desire."

Shortly after the rulings were handed down, Shafiq gave a press conference that looked and sounded much like a victory speech. Shafiq told a cheering crowd, "The age of settling accounts is over and gone. The age of using the law and the country's institutions against any individual is over."

In his speech, Shafiq, a close friend of Mubarak's, described a modern, free Egypt where every individual has a vote, promising landmark reforms. "We love you, President Shafiq," the crowd chanted in response.

But former International Atomic Energy Agency chief, Mohamed El Baradei warned that Egypt is entering a dangerous phase.

"Electing a president without having a constitution or parliament means electing a president with absolute power," el-Baradei said.

After the recent parliament elections, the Muslim Brotherhood stands to lose the most from today's rulings, and many wondered whether Morsi would still run this weekend or whether the Muslim Brotherhood would pull out in protest.

The Council on Foreign Relations' Steven Cook described two camps arising out of today's decisions: "Those [Muslim Brotherhood members] that believe Egypt is still within their grasp, and those [Muslim Brotherhood members] that are more reluctant to continue the fight, reluctant to run at all."

But former presidential candidate Abul Fotoh said Egyptians were up for the fight.

"Keeping the military candidate (in the race) and overturning the elected parliament after granting the military police the right to arrest is a complete coup and whoever thinks that millions of youth will let it pass is deluding themselves," Fotoh said in a statement.

Michael Hanna, fellow at the Century Foundation, isn't sure young revolutionaries will be as eager as last year.

"There is still a huge gulf of mistrust between the Muslim Brotherhood and the revolutionaries which presents a real stumbling block," he said. Whether people take their outrage to the voting booths, or to the street is yet to be seen.

Today's rulings come on the heels of a Justice Ministry decree on Wednesday that granted the military council authority to arrest civilians. The legal combination leaves SCAF squarely at the helm for the foreseeable future. And if Shafiq wins, many argue that it will effectively set the clock back to February 2011.

"With no parliament, and no constitution, [the military] will be governing the country," said Hamid. "SCAF has outmaneuvered everyone, and it has been masterful."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


After Mubarak Verdict, Egyptian Candidates Play to Fears

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/GettyImages(CAIRO) -- With tens of thousands of Egyptians pouring into the streets across the country to protest what they see as a lenient sentence of life imprisonment for former President Hosni Mubarak, the two remaining candidates in the presidential race are trying to secure votes by playing to fears among the electorate.

In a press conference on Sunday, Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, said the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Morsi would take Egypt back to “dark ages.”

“I represent a civil state. The Brotherhood represents a sectarian Brotherhood state,” Shafiq said. “I represent moving forward. They represent going backwards.”

He also spoke to fears that the Islamist Brotherhood would make life more restrictive for Egyptian women.

“Women of Egypt, I will not permit that the powers of extremism take you back to the dark ages.”

Shafiq has tried to shake the label that he is part of the “felool,” a derogatory term for remnants of the Mubarak regime.

His late surge in the polls and victory in the first round of voting reflected a growing fear among Egyptians about the increasing lawlessness, as well as fears among the minority Coptic Christians about their place in a country whose presidency and parliament would be controlled by the Brotherhood. But the fear that he would simply be a continuation of Mubarak was highlighted last week when protesters set fire to his Cairo campaign headquarters.

“The only way to save the revolution is to support the Brotherhood’s revolutionary candidate Mohamed Mursi in the presidential election runoff,” the Brotherhood’s Secretary General Mohamed Hussein said Monday, according to As-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

“We are talking about a danger that is coming at us with all its power, so we have to unite to topple the old regime’s candidate and then try and reach agreements afterwards,” he said.

On Saturday, Mubarak and his former interior minister were given life sentences for failing to stop the deaths of 850 protesters in last year’s revolution. Six other security officials were acquitted on the complicity charges while Mubarak’s sons and a business associate were acquitted of corruption charges.

The response to the verdicts was immediate, with Egyptians piling into Tahrir Square, the epicenter of last year’s revolution. Morsi appeared on Tahrir on Saturday night and has vowed to re-try Mubarak if elected. Also looking to ease fears among moderate voters, he met with former candidates Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabbahi on Sunday who garnered many of the votes among moderates.

“There is a strong desire to complete the revolution and achieve its objectives,” said Sabbahi, according to Al Masry Al Youm newspaper. “You can see that in all of Egypt’s squares.”

Mubarak was flown to Egypt’s notorious Tora prison following the verdict. En route, he reportedly suffered a “health crisis” and according to several reports, he refused to get off the helicopter for several hours after it landed. He eventually relented and was given a blue prison jumpsuit, a prison number and had his mugshot taken. The prison authorities also declined to allow his declining health to be supervised by his personal doctors. Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, was expected to visit him today.

The public prosecutor has already announced that he will appeal the verdicts. Morsi and Shafiq are set to face off against each other on June 16-17, with the new president being named officially on June 21.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egyptians March in Outrage Over Former Ruler Mubarak's Life Sentence

MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/GettyImages(CAIRO) -- Thousands gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square today, and at almost 3 a.m. were still chanting that the revolution is back and the military government needs to go, creating speculation that the Arab Spring has returned.

The crowds gathered today after a court sentenced Hosni Mubarak, the embattled and ailing former ruler who led Egypt with an iron first for 30 years, to life in prison for his role in the killing of more than 800 protesters who were demanding he step down. The charges carried a possible death sentence, but the judge chose life imprisonment instead.

There were celebrations in the streets when the verdict was announced, but it was short-lived, as protesters learned of the mixed verdict: While Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison, he and his two sons were acquitted of corruption charges.

Other senior government officials were acquitted, leaving no one found guilty of ordering the deaths of protesters last year.

"The people want the execution of the murderer," the crowd chanted.

Initial euphoria gave way to anger. Protesters, flying Egyptian flags and setting off fireworks, chanted "baatel," which means void, in reference to today's verdict.

Some on the streets carried banners that read "God's verdict is execution," while others in the city of Alexandra chanted "We are done with talk; we want an execution." Still others spread posters of Mubarak on the ground and walked over them.

Thousands of riot police in helmets and shields were needed to contain the restive, anti-Mubarak crowd outside the court. So far, the demonstrations have been relatively non-violent, although there have been several unconfirmed reports of sexual harassment on Twitter.

Mubarak, once a key U.S. ally and one of the longest standing Arab leaders in modern history, sat stone faced in court as Judge Ahmed Rifat read his verdict.

It began with words that just two years ago, would have been unthinkable.

"The people released a collective sigh of relief after a nightmare that did not, as is customary, last for a night, but for almost 30 black, black, black years -- darkness that resembled a winter night," he said.

"The revolution by the people of Egypt was inspired by God. They did not seek a luxurious life or to sit atop the world, but asked their politicians, rulers and those in authority to give them a decent life and a bite to eat," he said.

"They peacefully demanded democracy from rulers who held a tight grip on power."

Following the verdict, Mubarak suffered a "health crisis" on a helicopter en route to Cairo prison hospital, where he is expected to serve out his sentence. State media reported it as a heart attack, but it could not be independently confirmed.

Officials say that upon arrival, Mubarak refused to leave the helicopter for a full two hours, insisting instead that he be taken to a military hospital on the outskirts of Cairo, where he has stayed since his trial began in August.

Before that, Mubarak had been staying in a hospital in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el Sheikh, where he reportedly had privileged access to health facilities, a swimming pool, and received visits from other Gulf rulers.

Inside the courtroom, a scuffle broke out as soon as the verdict was read. Although Mubarak was convicted for his role in suppressing the uprising, he and his sons, Gamal and Alaa, along with a family friend, were acquitted of corruption charges. Because of other, pre-existing charges against Gamal and Alaa that have yet to be heard in court, the two brothers will remain behind bars.

A number of revolutionary groups, including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed during Mubarak's regime, called for massive protests at Tahrir Square, the symbolic home of the uprising. Many were upset that Mubarak wasn't found guilty on all charges. They said the verdict was an indication that the old Mubarak regime is still influencing the judiciary.

"Justice was not served," said Ramadan Ahmed, whose son was killed on Jan. 28, 2011. "This is a sham."

Human Rights Watch called the verdict a landmark, but criticized the prosecution for failing to fully investigate the case.

"It sends a powerful message to Egypt's future leaders that they are not above the law," HRW spokesman Joe Stork said. "These convictions set an important precedent since just over a year ago, seeing Mubarak as a defendant in a criminal court would have been unthinkable."

The verdict comes at a crucial time, with the country set for a run-off tiebreaker in its president elections. The showdown is a contest between Ahmed Shafiq, a former protégé of Mubarak's, and Mohammed Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

On his Facebook page, Shafiq declined to comment on the court ruling, but said it shows no one is above the law in Egypt, and that the old regime would never come back.

In contrast, a spokesman for Morsi called the verdicts "shocking" and vowed retribution.

"I am part of this people who lived for decades under oppression. The blood from the martyrs' wounds is still running. I was, and still am, and will remain a revolutionary until the revolution's aims are realized," said Morsi in a press conference, according to the Egypt Independent.

Morsi and Shafiq will go on a head-to-head presidential runoff on June 16-17.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egyptian Military Doctor Cleared for Forcing Female Protesters to Undergo "Virginity Tests"

AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- A military doctor accused of forcing women protesters to undergo "virginity tests" has been acquitted , The Guardian reports.

Ahmed Adel was charged with public indecency and disobeying military orders for reportedly coercing seven women arrested at Tahrir Square protests last March to undergo the invasive tests. The judge in the case cleared Adel on grounds that witness statements were contradictory.

Last May, after a senior Egyptian general admitted to CNN that the military had performed the tests, Amnesty International said, “This admission is an utterly perverse justification of a degrading form of abuse,” said Amnesty International.  “The women were subjected to nothing less than torture.”

The acquittal cannot be appealed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egyptians Gather to Celebrate One Year Anniversary of Uprising

A man in Tahrir Square celebrates as it's announced that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was giving up power. Chris Hondros/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Thousands of Egyptians are once again marching and gathering across Egypt on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

The main events are taking place in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the anti-government protests that began across the country on Jan. 25, 2011.

Many are celebrating the end of Mubarak's 30-year rule but others are protesting the slow transition from the ruling military council to a civilian government, ABC's Alex Marquardt reports.
Even so, the gatherings have been peaceful, and police and military officers have not interferred.

In the wake of Mubarak's ouster, which was supported by President Obama, voting in Egypt has led to hard-line Islamists' rise to power in parliament. The terror-linked Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party recently won 235 seats in the 498 seat chamber, and one of its members was named parliament speaker.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Egypt Holds First Parliamentary Elections Since Mubarak's Ouster

ABC News(CAIRO) -- Egyptians are taking to the polls on Monday to vote in the first parliamentary elections since their longtime leader Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February.

The elections will be divided into three stages, the first of which will run until January.  The final stage is expected to wrap up by the end of March 2012.

Those casting their votes in Cairo Monday told ABC News they were very excited about doing so; two young women said they were so nervous they couldn't sleep.

The voting comes amid a renewed presence in Tahrir Square -- the epicenter of this year's anti-government uprising that led to Mubarak's ouster -- where protesters in recent days have been calling for the end of the country's interim military leadership.

Last week, in an effort to defuse the anger of the protesters, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military government, said he would move up presidential elections to June 2012 and would hold a referendum on having the military relinquish power immediately if necessary.  Currently, the transfer of power to civilian rule is scheduled for late 2012 or 2013.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Pressures Egyptian Military to Cede Power

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As tens of thousands of Egyptians poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square demanding a more expeditious transition to democracy, the White House joined the fray Friday, ratcheting up pressure on Egypt’s interim military rulers to cede power “as soon as possible.”

“The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately,” the Obama administration said in a statement.

“We believe that Egypt’s transition to democracy must continue, with elections proceeding expeditiously, and all necessary measures taken to ensure security and prevent intimidation. Most importantly, we believe that the full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible.”

The Egyptian military council governing the country since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak appointed ex-Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri on Thursday to form a new government after the previous military-appointed civilian cabinet resigned, according to state-run media reports. Officials have promised parliamentary elections will begin across Egypt next week.

But the restless protesters have vowed to continue agitating in the streets and occupying Tahrir Square until a full transfer of authority to civilian power has occurred. They dubbed the Friday protest the “Last Chance Million-Man Protest.”

The White House defended the protests in their statement, condemning any excessive use of force against the Egyptian people.

“We deeply regret the loss of life, and urge the Egyptian authorities to implement an independent investigation into the circumstances of those deaths,” the administration said. “But the situation Egypt faces requires a more fundamental solution, devised by Egyptians, which is consistent with universal principles.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Gains Access to Three American Students Detained in Cairo

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. State Department has received consular access to the three American students detained in Cairo, but won’t confirm their identities due to Privacy Act concerns. There was no immediate word on their conditions.

“Our officials in Cairo do remain in close contact with Egyptian authorities regarding their cases. We're also in close contact with the families of the three detained U.S. citizens,” spokesman Mark Toner said.

“Our concern right there -- right now is to provide them with necessary consular support as well as act as an intermediary between the families and the -- and the Egyptian authorities,” he said.

Toner confirmed that no charges have yet been filed.

The three U.S. exchange students at American University in Cairo are reportedly accused of tossing firebombs from the roof of a campus building overlooking Tahrir square during a rally.

A spokesperson for American University in Cairo told ABC News Radio on Tuesday that the students being detained were Georgetown University student Derrik Sweeney; Drexel University student Gregory Porter, of Glenside, Pa.; and Indiana University student Luke Gates, of Bloomingdale, Ind.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Egyptian Military Budges in Face of Tahrir Square Protesters

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- The head of Egypt's interim military government pledged Tuesday to hold a referendum on transferring power to a civilian government, but throngs of angry protesters insisted instead that the military give up power immediately.

Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military government, addressed the nation in an effort to defuse the anger of the protesters that packed Cairo's Tahrir Square in a show of force similar to the demonstrations that brought down longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last February.

Tantawi said he would move up presidential elections to June 2012 and would hold a referendum on having the military relinquish power immediately if necessary. Currently, the transfer of power to civilian rule is scheduled for late 2012 or 2013.

Tantawi also announced that parliamentary elections will take place as scheduled on Nov. 28.

His proposal was was met with angry chants of "irhal," or leave, from the tens of thousands of protesters who have filled Tahrir Square for the past four days. At times another chant rose claiming, "The people want the regime to fall."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday called Tantawi's promises "important reassurances," and said the U.S. would hold the Egyptian military to its pledges.

The protesters have been faced with harsh measures by Egyptian security forces throughout the demonstrations, with nearly 30 reported deaths since the demonstrations began on Saturday.

The tough measures got a rebuke Tuesday from the U.S. State Department.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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