CAIRO - Egyptian activists vowed on Sunday to stay camped in Cairo's Tahrir Square, accusing the army rulers of failing to sweep out corruption, end the use of military courts and swiftly try those who killed protesters.
Anger has been rising against what many Egyptians see as the reluctance of the military council to deliver on the demands of protesters who ousted Hosni Mubarak in February. They include speeding up the pace of Mubarak's trial over the killings of demonstrators, which is scheduled to start on Aug. 3.
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A speech by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf on Saturday that promised action but was thin on detail only stoked frustrations.
One speaker in Tahrir, the symbolic center of the revolt that toppled Mubarak, said Sharaf deserved a "red card," the soccer term for being sent off the field. Youth groups on Facebook called for action to be stepped up this week.
Sharaf met a delegation from the protesters to discuss their demands,
his office said in a statement posted on its Facebook page. "The group
renewed its confidence in the person of Essam Sharaf and asserted their
desire for a change that will achieve the goals of the revolution," it
Analysts said the army-appointed government needed to act quickly if it
wanted to avoid a further escalation, even if some of the aspirations
for change were unreasonably high.
The Public Prosecution office, in what appeared to be an attempt to
placate protesters, posted a list of the legal measures it had taken
against senior officials of the Interior Ministry accused of killing
protesters, including trial dates.
An Egyptian judge said on Sunday that new criminal cases would be
deferred to other courts to free up judges reviewing cases linked to
corruption and the death of protesters, in line with Sharaf's call to
expedite protester demands.
Protesters blocked the main roads to Tahrir Square, set up barricades
and pinned a banner reading "civil disobedience until further notice"
outside the vast 'Mogamma' administrative building.
Thousands stayed late into Sunday night, talking politics in makeshift
tents or crowding around stages where activists read political poetry
and musicians played guitars and violins.
"We were waiting for Essam Sharaf to come down to the square," said
hotel chef Ahmed Mohamed, 27. "He is a man of principle but has a weak
personality. We now want him to leave."
Hundreds more gathered in front of a government office in the city of
Zakazik northeast of Cairo to demand a "cleansing" of the Interior
Ministry and swift justice for dead protesters.
A nucleus of protesters have stayed since a mass rally on Friday dubbed
"Revolution First" that demanded swifter reforms. Some chanted for Field
Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to go.
Tantawi, who now leads the military council in charge of Egypt, was
Mubarak's defense minister for two decades. The army has pledged to hand
power to civilians soon and has scheduled parliamentary elections for
"The entire military council served Mubarak and the entire Cabinet is
nothing but the remnants of his regime," a longtime critic of the former
president, Abdel Hamid Qandil, said.