Egyptian protesters plan sit-in until army leaves
26 January 2012, 16:32
Cairo - Egyptian
youths camped out on Thursday in Cairo's Tahrir Square and vowed to stay
put until the army hands power to civilians, a day after a mass
demonstration marked a year since an uprising which brought down Hosni
Tens of thousands of Egyptians poured into the square and onto
streets of other cities for the January 25 anniversary of the day the
revolt began. Although good-natured, the demonstration exposed rifts in
the Arab world's most populous nation.
The Tahrir crowds were broadly split between youths demanding the
army cede control to civilians immediately and Islamists celebrating a
political transformation that has handed them sweeping gains in
parliament after decades of repression.
Sit-ins have in the past sparked violence when the police and
army have sought to clear protesters out, but on Thursday the scene was
Scores of youths occupied the square surrounded by dozens of
tents pitched on traffic islands. Vendors sold hot drinks and some
activists huddled round open fires to keep warm in the morning air.
"The military council commits the same abuses Mubarak committed. I
don't feel any change. The military council is leading a
counter-revolution. We will protest until the military council goes,"
said 23-year-old student Samer Qabil.
The army council took over when Mubarak was ousted and is led by
his defence minister for two decades, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein
Tantawi. It has insisted it will hand power to civilians after a
presidential election in June.
But many activists say they fear it wants to hold onto power behind the scenes.
Although troops were cheered when they were ordered onto the streets
in the uprising, they have since drawn the wrath of many for
heavy-handed tactics against protests demanding they go back to
"There will be a sit-in until they leave," said Alaa Abdel
Fattah, a blogger and activist who was detained by the army after
clashes outside state media offices killed 25 protesters in October.
In Alexandria, a Mediterranean port that is Egypt's
second-biggest city, about 100 protesters had also set up tents late on
Wednesday near police headquarters, demanding the army hand over power
Mubarak, 83, is on trial for his life and a new parliament was
installed this week that is dominated by his Islamist adversaries. But
many youthful activists who launched last year's revolt are weary of
army rule and worry that Islamists may stifle their hopes of a deep
purge of the old order.
The activists fear Islamists will make political concessions to
the army as they seek to secure their new gains in mainstream politics.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which now has the biggest bloc in
parliament after the first free election in decades, and other Islamists
deny any deals with the military.
The once banned Brotherhood had warned against a sit-in but said
some of its members stayed in the square to help it stay peaceful.
The army and police kept their distance from the square during
Wednesday's demonstration in an apparent effort to ensure there was no
cause for friction.
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