By Samer al-Atrush (AFP) – Apr 8, 2011
CAIRO — Tens of thousands of Egyptians massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday two months after president Hosni Mubarak was ousted to demand the trial of former regime elements, slamming the military rulers for stalling on reforms.
Waving flags and holding banners in a protest dubbed the "Day of Trial and Cleansing," protesters vowed to press the ruling military council to deliver on promises of reform and justice.
Seven army officers defied a warning from the ruling military council when they joined the protesters' call for former regime elements to face trial.
"Our demands are your demands. We want a civilian government. We want to try corrupt people," one officer said to loud cheers.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, that took power after Mubarak was ousted on February 11, warned that anyone protesting in military uniform on Friday would face trial in a military court.
"We want you to help us purify the military institution," said one officer. "We will stay in the square until our demands are met. If we leave before that, know that we left against our will."
A general and several military police officers went to the makeshift podium to speak with them.
One of the military police officers told AFP afterwards that the men would not be arrested, and they previously had been expelled from the military.
The protesting officers could not immediately be reached for a response because of large crowd.
Ahead of the protest, several men calling themselves former army officers publicly challenged the council and called for its members to step down.
Regular rallies have been held since Mubarak was toppled on February 11, but the numbers were significantly higher this week because of the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best organised opposition movement.
"These corrupt people need to be tried," said teaching assistant Fairuz al-Tayyeb, 27, as she accused the council of stalling over promises for a free and democratic system.
"I don't understand why they are so slow. I feel corruption is everywhere, even in the military. But now we know our way and we will keep coming back every Friday until the country is cleansed," she said, as a military helicopter hovered overhead.
"There is still a delay in taking action against people who harmed the Egyptians. We are worried they can still do more damage," said Sameh Ahmed, 35, a development adviser.
Hossam Bahgat, who heads the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the protests had been successful.
"People are coming primarily to keep the momentum. The transition process has so far lacked predictability," Bahgat said.
"The Friday protests have so far been effective in getting two or three concessions each time."
Earlier, draped in Egyptian flags, Muslims were joined by Christians for weekly prayers during which Muslim cleric Safwat al-Higazi called for Mubarak to face criminal charges.
"We don't only want to try him for the millions (of dollars) but also for the blood," he told the crowd. "We want to try him just as he tried the people in state security courts, but we want a popular trial."
Mubarak, his wife Suzanne and their two sons Alaa and Gamal and their wives have already been banned from travel and had their assets frozen.
Higazi said the "cleansing" had to go beyond the presidential palace, threatening to storm the state television complex because regime elements were still there.
"The rotten smell of the regime emanates from under their masks. We are prepared to occupy this building and manage it to create a patriotic media," he said.
Tahrir Square was the centre of massive nationwide protests that erupted on January 25 and lead to the ouster of Mubarak, who handed power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, headed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi who served as Mubarak's defence minister for two decades.
Several former ministers and members of Mubarak's National Democratic Party are being investigated as part of a sweeping probe into corruption, but pro-democracy activists say key figures still need to be brought to justice.
On Thursday, Mubarak's chief of staff Zakariah Azmi was detained for 15 days on suspicion of illegally acquiring his wealth.
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