HUNDREDS of thousands of Egyptian workers and youth have re-occupied Tahrir Square in disgust at the light sentencing of ex-president Mubarak and at the former Mubarak regime’s Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq’s, participation in the presidential election run-off.
Shafiq will compete against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party candidate Morsy in the presidential run-off in two weeks’ time.
Protesters called for the revolution to be permanent and for Shafiq to be banned from the second round, and for a revolutionary candidate to take his place.
The action started with Friday’s march to the square from the Istiqamah Mosque in Giza.
Marchers demanded Shafiq be disqualified from the run-off and chanted slogans against the ruling military council, including, ‘Down with the military rule’, and ‘Get out Musheer’ in a reference to head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
In the Mohandiseen neighbourhood of Cairo, another march began at Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque.
The protesters chanted slogans demanding Shafiq be excluded from the presidential race.
State-run MENA news service had reported earlier that several marches will head to Tahrir Square from several mosques including one in Sayeda Zeinab and Fatah mosque in Ramses Square.
It was also reported that the April 6th Youth Movement’s Democratic Front planned to stage a march after Friday prayers from Fatah mosque in Ramses Square to the Supreme Court, then to Tahrir Square.
Marchers gathered signatures of citizens in support of the political isolation law, which would ban high-ranking former regime officials from running for office until 2021.
Demonstrators had started flocking to Tahrir Square on Friday morning to participate in the protest against former regime figures participating in politics, specifically against the presidential candidacy of Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak’s final prime minister.
Many revolutionary groups had called for the protest.
Movements that had been planning to participate in the protest included the Kefaya Movement, the Salafi Front, the Free Front for Peaceful Change, Egypt’s Revolutionaries’ Coalition, Askar Kazeboon (Military Liars), the Revolutionary Youth Union and other movements.
The Muslim Brotherhood announced it would take part in the protest symbolically as the majority of its members would be busy campaigning for the Brotherhood’s candidate Morsy.
The Salafi Dawah and its political arm the Nour Party and the liberal Wafd Party rejected the protest although they said they supported its objectives.
Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan denounced political forces who have asked presidential candidate Mohamed Morsy to make certain promises or sign statements in exchange for their support.
Ghozlan described making demands of Morsy in exchange for support as ‘extortion’.
He said: ‘We offered the utmost we have.’
Ghozlan rejected signing any statements laying out conditions, adding that the pledges Morsy has made are enough.
‘There are odd demands that can’t be fulfilled, like the condition that the Muslim Brotherhood be dissolved,’ the spokesman explained.
But Ghozlan admitted that some have ‘expressed the need for assurances, to which Morsy responded. This is enough for a fair person, especially when we are in a battle against former regime remnants.’
Ghozlan rejected Morsy’s statements being called ‘mere promises,’ adding that ‘these pledges were made before the whole nation, so it will be easy for people to object to Morsy if he does not follow through with them.’
With regard to written pledges that various political forces have asked candidates to sign, Ghozlan said, ‘The documents are numerous, and I do not remember what is in them.
‘Everyone comes up with a document and numerous demands.
‘There is a lot of extortion. Everyone wants to be put in charge of a ministry, which all are not fit for, especially in this time.’
• The General Coordinator of the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS) has accused the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party of hindering the issuance of a law organising the establishment of trade unions.
CTUWS coordinator Kamal Abbas said last Wednesday that the People’s Assembly ‘was delayed in discussing trade unions’ freedom law’.
He added that the Manpower minister had sent two letters to Parliament calling for the swift issuing of the law so Egypt is removed from the list of countries with no labour freedoms.
Abbas also accused the FJP of hindering the draft law proposed by former Manpower Minister Ahmed Hassan al-Borai, despite the approval of all authorities representing labour.
Meanwhile, MP Yossri Bayoumi of the FJP, who sits on the Manpower Committee, said: ‘The committee concluded reviewing the trade unions’ freedom law to be issued before the end of presidential elections.’
The committee, according to Bayoumi, was assisted by experts of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) while reviewing the law to conform to Egypt’s international agreements related to trade unions’ freedom.
The committee also called on ILO’s representative in North Africa, Mohamed al-Taraboulsi, and Middle East representative Hakim Rashid to review the law ahead of Parliament’s review of it.
‘The ILO will not remove Egypt from the blacklist, even if the trade unions’ freedom is issued. It takes a hostile attitude against Egypt because of the former regime,’ Bayoumi alleged.
The CTUWS’ Abbas said the labour activists working for trade union freedom were not asked to review the law, although the committee confirmed they were invited during the hearing sessions.
He also added that the activists have no information about what the law includes.
l Human rights activists have welcomed the ending of the 31-year state of emergency that gave broad and unchecked powers to Egypt’s police force up until the stroke of midnight last Thursday.
It is being hailed as a small victory among human rights defenders who have long campaigned for its end, and was one of the demands of the 25 January revolution.
Heba Morayef, the Cairo-based Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW) said: ‘At a very gloomy time, this is a sliver of good news, because the human rights community has called for decades against the Emergency Law.’
Magda Boutros, criminal justice director at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, added: ‘It’s a historic day for someone like me, who has never lived in Egypt without the Emergency Law.
‘It suspends all rights and freedoms and gives broad powers to security and state agencies to create exceptions to normal laws and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.
‘For the first time in my lifetime, we can start hoping for the rule of law to be applied; there will be no more leeway for security agencies to arbitrarily arrest individuals.’
From last Friday, there will also be no more referrals to the Emergency State Security Courts (ESSC), in which detainees are not given a fair trial by judges directly appointed by the president.
But despite this, Parliament still needs to pass a law that will force the Interior Ministry to release all Emergency Law detainees, or refer them to prosecutors to be charged, and ask the public prosecutor to transfer all ESSC trials to regular civilian courts, said Human Rights Watch and advocacy group Alkarama in a statement released on 30 May.
The Interior Ministry is currently detaining at least 188 people under the Emergency Law, the two advocacy groups estimate. Some of those detained, Alkarama has documented, remain in prison for activities not even illegal under Egyptian law, such as the possession of beer.