Egypt’s army to protesters: Leave Tahrir or face arrest

Hundreds of state employees defy military’s orders, taking to the streets to demand better pay.

February 15, 2011 03:42
4 minute read.
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Egyptian protesters with flags at pyramids 311. (photo credit: AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Egypt’s army issued an ultimatum on Monday to dozens of committed protesters in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of a movement that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s government, to leave the area or face arrest.

Soldiers cleared out almost all the remaining demonstrators from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the giant traffic circle that was turned into a protest camp headquarters for the 18-day revolt.


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Several huge trucks piled high with protesters’ blankets left the square. All the tents were gone, as were other signs of permanent camps. By early afternoon, a few dozen stalwarts remained, standing in one corner of the square and yelling for the release of political prisoners.

The remaining protesters say they won’t leave until all those detained during the revolt are released.

Still, hundreds of Egyptian state employees took to the streets to demand better pay and conditions, in the latest outbreak of labor unrest unleashed by the three-week uprising.

Outside the Nile-side TV and state radio building, hundreds of public transport workers were demonstrating to demand better pay. Several hundred protesters from the state Youth and Sports Organization protested in Tahrir Square with similar demands.

Egypt’s ruling Higher Military Council hopes to finalize constitutional amendments within 10 days and put them to a referendum within two months, paving the way to democratic elections, members have told youth activists.

Wael Ghonim said on his Facebook page that he and seven other activists involved in protests that brought down Mubarak last week met two members of the council on Sunday evening. Ghonim, a Google executive who was detained for two weeks during the protests, confirmed to Reuters the accuracy of the report of the meeting that he published on social networking site Facebook.

“A constitutional committee known for integrity, honor and not belonging to any political trends has been formed to finish constitutional amendments in the space of 10 days, and and they will be put to a referendum within two months,” the Facebook page read.

Also on Sunday, the Egyptian daily newspaper Al- Akhbar reported that Mubarak’s two sons were on the verge of blows last Thursday during their father’s last speech as president. According to the report, Ala Hosni Mubarak accused his younger brother Gamal of destroying his father’s image and political life.

“You have destroyed the country when you opened the door to your friends; this is the result,” the younger Mubarak reportedly said. “Instead of your father being respected towards the end of his life, you helped spoil his image.”

Meanwhile, speculation continued to spread on Monday over Hosni Mubarak’s whereabouts. The Egyptian prime minister and senior US officials said they believe the disgraced president is staying in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm e-Sheikh, but the independent Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported he already boarded a flight for Abu Dhabi, where he spent the night before continuing to Germany.

German officials have flatly denied those reports.

“He’s not in Germany, and he’s not on his way,” Steffen Seibert, the chief spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Sunday night. “This is a new round of rumors. There is absolutely no information that we have about this, and it would require him a visa to come here. So presumably we would know.”

Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry, said Mubarak, 82, was “possibly in somewhat of bad health,” providing the first word about him since being ousted Friday.

Speaking Monday on NBC’s Today show, the envoy said he had received the information about Mubarak but could not be more specific. Two Cairo newspapers said Mubarak was refusing to take medication, depressed and repeatedly passing out at his residence in the Red Sea resort of Sharm e-Sheikh. There was no immediate confirmation of the reports.

Mubarak had surgery in Germany last year to remove his gallbladder.

In downtown Cairo, hundreds of police demonstrated for a second day for better pay. They also want to clear their reputation, further tarnished by the deadly clashes between protesters and security forces. Some carried portraits of policemen killed in the clashes.

“These are victims of the regime too,” declared one placard.

The Interior Ministry says 33 policemen were killed and 1,109 were wounded in the clashes. Several hundred protesters are thought to have been killed, but no exact figures are available.

“It’s hard for us to go back to work because people hate us,” said one protester, a captain who was among the demonstrators. “An official funeral must be held for our martyrs.”

Alaa Ashour, head of the country’s national carrier, EgyptAir, was removed by the civil aviation minister after workers went on strike at Cairo International Airport. Ashour, also described by airport officials as Mubarak’s pilot on international trips, was removed late on Sunday after workers called for more perks and pay.

Even so, the protests continued Monday in other subsidiaries of EgyptAir’s parent company, as well as workers at companies that provide support services to the airline.

Reflecting the continuing downturn in travel from Egypt, EgyptAir said it had organized only 31 international flights and 12 domestic flights for Monday. The carrier generally has about 145 scheduled flights per day. Several thousand refugees from East African countries, including Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia, gathered outside the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, on the outskirts of Cairo, demanding to be allowed to leave Egypt to resettle elsewhere.

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