22 Nov 2011

Egypt protesters gather for ‘day of rage’

As Egypt’s interim cabinet offers its resignation, activists in Cairo are calling for a million people to march through the streets to force the country’s military leaders to hand over power.

Egypt protesters gather for 'day of rage'. (Getty)

The call for mass demonstrations comes after some 20 000 people demonstrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square overnight after three days of the worst violence Egypt experienced since the days prior to the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February.

Medical sources at Cairo’s main morgue said 33 corpses had been received since Saturday, most with bullet wounds. The health ministry put the toll at 24 dead and 1,250 wounded.

Unrest also extended beyond Cairo to Alexandria and to the port city of Ismailia on the Suez Canal, where two protesters were killed there, medical sources said.

Some 5,000 people surrounded a security headquarters in the northern coastal city of Alexandria and police responded by firing live ammunition, witnesses said. The state news agency MENA said 40 security officers were injured in the clashes.

Cabinet resign

The violence comes as the country’s interim cabinet offered its resignation to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi’s military junta, which has not said if it accepts the move.

“The government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has handed its resignation to the [ruling] Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf),” Mohammed Hegazy, cabinet spokesperson, said in a statement aired on Monday night by the official Mena news agency.

“Owing to the difficult circumstances the country is going through, the government will continue working” until the resignation is accepted, Hegazy added.

The army appealed for calm late on Monday and asked the country’s justice ministry to investigate the violence.

In a statement, it invited “all the political and national forces for an emergency dialogue to look into the reasons behind the aggravation of the current crisis and ways to resolve it as quickly as possible”.

Amnesty report

An Amnesty International report urged the military to exercise restraint and criticised its record on human rights, saying the junta “is relying on the same patterns of abuse as under the three decades of Mubarak’s rule”.

“This bloodshed over the weekend is utterly unacceptable. The violence yet again calls into question the orders given to security forces.

“We hold the Scaf responsible for the lives and the safety of demonstrators and voters in next week’s elections,” Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Acting Director Philip Luther said.

With one week to go before parliamentary elections, many of the demonstrators chanted slogans in protest at recent efforts by Field Marshal Tantawi’s junta to impose a constitution that would protect the military from civilian oversight.

Activists also say the military has continued to rely on emergency laws and summary justice dispensed by military courts, and has targeted media and opposition figures critical of its authority.

They are demanding that presidential elections, currently scheduled for late 2012 or early 2013, be held earlier to ensure a faster transition of executive power from the military.