By Jailan Zayan (AFP) – Jan 25, 2011
CAIRO — Egypt braced for a day of nationwide anti-government protests on Tuesday, with organisers counting on the Tunisian uprising to inspire crowds to mobilise for political and economic reforms.
Celebrities, football supporters and opposition movements have said they will join the protests, and tens of thousands have said on a Facebook page created to advertise the demonstrations that they will participate.
Protests will kick off at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT) at several locations in the capital and across the country, in a day dubbed "the day of revolt against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment."
The call was first launched by pro-democracy youth group the April 6 movement, to coincide with a national holiday to celebrate Police Day.
Among demands are the ouster of Interior Minster Habib al-Adly, whose police and security forces have been accused of heavy-handedness; the removal of the decades-old emergency law and a rise in minimum wages.
The controversial law, which gives police wide powers of arrest, suspends constitutional rights and curbs non-governmental political activity, was renewed in 2010 for a further two years.
The interior ministry has warned that it would deal "firmly" with all those who behave illegally.
In an interview with the state-owned Al-Ahram daily published on Tuesday, Adly accused the organisers of being "unaware" and said they would have "no impact."
"The security is able to deal with any threat to the safety of its people, and will not take lightly any damage to property or breaches of the law," he warned.
The protests have been inspired by a wave of street riots in Tunisia that ended the rule of veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled the country on January 14.
Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has expressed support for the protest, saying opponents of Egypt's long-running regime should be able to follow the lead set by Tunisia.
A statement by his National Association for Change said several members had been summoned by security services in the run-up to Tuesday's demonstrations.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most organised opposition movement, and the liberal Wafd -- Egypt's oldest opposition party -- have not formally endorsed the demonstrations, but have said many of their members will take part.
Amnesty International urged the authorities not to crack down on the protests.
"Egypt needs to allow peaceful protests, and stop arresting and intimidating peaceful opposition activists," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for its Middle East and North Africa programme.
"The country?s security forces have a worrying record when dealing with demonstrators, and we urge them to refrain from excessive and disproportionate force tomorrow," said a statement on Monday.
In December, the self-immolation of 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi unleashed a wave of street riots across the North African country that culminated in the dramatic ouster of Ben Ali after 23 years in power.
Bouazizi's attempt to draw attention to economic hardship and repression sparked a series of copycat public torchings in Egypt, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Tunisian grievances have been echoed throughout the Arab world, whose mainly autocratic leaders were unnerved by events in Tunisia.
The authorities have rejected the idea that the Tunisian scenario could spill over into Egypt.
But in a sign of anxiety over public discontent, they have recently tried to reassure the public that subsidies on basic commodities will remain in place.
Around 40 percent of Egypt's 80-million population live on around two dollars per day, and a large part of the population relies on subsidised goods.
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