Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey to impose sanctions on Syrian regime

Turkey has decided to impose economic and financial sanctions on the Syrian regime over its bloody crackdown on the opposition, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday.
He said the Syrian regime was "at an impasse" and "prefers to repress its people rather than engage in democratic reforms."
Davutoglu announced an immediate ban on transactions with the Syrian government and central bank and a freeze on Syrian government assets in Turkey.
Similar measures will be taken against "some well-known businessmen who are strong advocates of the Syrian regime," he added.
Further measures include a ban on Syrian officials visiting Turkey and halting the transfer of arms and military equipment to the Syrian army.
Turkey will also suspend the high-level strategic council mechanism under which a dozen ministers from both countries convened a few times a year to discuss joint projects before the uprising began in March.
Ankara's measures come after Arab foreign ministers agreed on Sunday a list of sweeping sanctions designed to cripple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has defied international pressure to halt a bloody crackdown on protests.
Davutoglu underlined that Turkey would not take any measures that would harm the Syrian people and warned the government would contemplate "additional measures" according to the steps taken by the Syrian administration.
Turkey's sanctions aimed at punishing the Syrian regime are likely to dent trade ties between the two countries. Current trade volume stands at around US$2.5 billion, favorable to Turkey.
Syria is also a major transit country for Turkey's trade with Middle Eastern countries.
Turkey, a one-time ally of Syria, is increasingly concerned about the regime's crackdown on dissidents.
Davutoglu called on the Syrian leadership to fulfill people's legitimate demands as soon as possible, saying that was the only way out of the current impasse.
"At this difficult time, Turkey will continue to stand by the Syrian people resolutely because we strongly believe that we share a common future with Syrian people and will build it together," he said.
Turkey has stepped up criticism of Assad's crackdown on opposition protests since Turkish diplomatic missions came under attack by pro-government demonstrators in several Syrian cities earlier this month.
Tensions worsened when two busloads of Turkish pilgrims who were in Syria on their way back from the hajj in Mecca were attacked by Syrian gunmen.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week urged his one-time ally to step down, becoming the second regional leader to do so after Jordan's King Abdullah.

Britain evacuates embassy staff from Iran

Britain was evacuating all its diplomatic staff from Iran on Wednesday, a day after protesters stormed its embassy in Tehran in scenes that prompted international outrage.
Norway said it had temporarily closed its embassy but its diplomats continued to work from elsewhere in Tehran. Other European missions were evaluating the situation.
Britain warned "serious consequences" would follow Tuesday's attacks on its two diplomatic compounds in the Iranian capital, one of which contained its embassy.
The protesters rampaged for hours through the properties, tearing down the British flag, smashing windows, trashing offices, setting documents alight, and briefly blocking the movements of six British diplomats.
The protesters had been taking part in demonstrations in front of the British compounds with the approval of authorities, to reflect official anger at Britain's announcement last week that it was cutting all relations with Iran's financial sector.
Britain's step was part of new sanctions coordinated with the US and Canada to pile pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear activities, which Western governments suspect is cover for a drive for a weapons capability.
The Tuesday attacks on the British compounds sharply increased tensions in the showdown between Iran and the West on the issue.
They were the worst assaults against a diplomatic mission in Tehran since the 1979 taking of the US embassy by Islamist students, who held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days an act that resulted in the rupture of US-Iran diplomatic ties.
No British diplomats were hurt in Tuesday's incursions. But staff had to pull back to secure areas as the protesters went on their rampage.
A Foreign Office spokesman said the decision to withdraw "some" British staff from Iran was "to ensure their ongoing safety."
The spokesman did not specify how many were leaving nor whether the British embassy would be closed. "We'll make any announcement about our embassy and staffing levels at the appropriate time," he said.
European diplomats in Tehran told AFP, however, that all British diplomats were being evacuated. One said a first group had been taken to Tehran's airport for a flight to Dubai.
British, French, German schools all located in one of the British compounds attacked were closed until further notice, as a precaution, diplomats said.
International condemnation of the embassy assault was swift and broad.
The UN Security Council issued a statement slamming Iran, although it avoided mention of any repercussions.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in a separate statement he was "shocked and outraged to hear of the incident in Tehran in which demonstrators entered the British embassy, briefly abducted embassy staff and damaged property."
US President Barack Obama said the storming of the embassy was "not acceptable" and that "all of us are deeply disturbed."
Even Russia Iran's closest major ally condemned the incursions as "unacceptable."
Iran's reaction was a mix of contrition and defiance.
The foreign ministry expressed "regret" over the incident, and deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying a number of protesters had been arrested and others were being sought.
But parliament speaker Ali Larijani said the protesters had been "angered by the British government's behavior" and the "decades of domineering moves by the British in Iran."
The UN Security Council's condemnation was "hasty," he told lawmakers, according to state television.
The head of parliament's security and foreign policy committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said Iran "respects" all treaties protecting foreign diplomats and embassies.
"This issue must in no way cause concern for other diplomats and embassies," he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Iranian newspapers generally abstained from commenting on the storming of the embassy, although all reported it on their front pages.
The Hamshahri newspaper, run by Tehran municipality, said the students were protesting "Britain's hostile stance," while the Mellat-e Ma daily headlined: "British embassy taken over in five minutes."
Britain has warned its nationals against non-essential travel to Iran, and advised the few in the country to stay indoors.
The storming of the two compounds came ahead of an EU foreign ministers' meeting on Thursday that is expected to unveil new sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.
Iran has repeatedly denied the program has a military component, and has warned it will respond to any attack by raining missiles on Israel and Turkey.

Elections commission receives results of Egypt expat vote

The High Elections Commission (HEC) on Wednesday received from the Foreign Ministry the results of the first round of parliamentary votes cast by Egyptians abroad.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Amr Roshdy said the Foreign Ministry had established polling stations in 127 Egyptian embassies.
Representatives from Egyptian communities abroad attended the vote counts, Roshdy said. He said only three or four embassies had not received any votes.
Egyptians in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital, cast most the largest number of ballots with more than 35,000 voters. Nearly 26,000 Egyptians voted from Kuwait, and 12,000 voted from the United Arab Emirates.
Roshdy said 27 Israel-based Egyptians, out of 45 registered, had cast their ballots. Ecuador and Chile came last with only one Egyptian voter at each.

alaa Abd El-Fattah could face charges of murder, terrorism

The High State Security Prosecution charged prominent blogger and activist @alaa Abd El-Fattah with four new crimes on Monday. The charges included premeditated murder with the intention of committing an act of terror, regarding his alleged role in the Maspero clashes that left 26 dead and more than 300 injured on 9 October.

This brings the number of criminal charges that the activist/blogger has been facing since military prosecutors first accused him in late October of multiple offences in the events of Bloody Sunday up to 12.
Abd El-Fattah was initially accused by the military prosecution of theft of military arms, attacking military personnel, destroying military property and inciting violence against military personnel during the clashes, in which a number of activists and protesters died, some run over by military vehicles.
High State Security Prosecution, which is an exceptional prosecution body that functions under emergency law and does not accept appeals but only pardons from the head of state, took over jurisdiction in Abd El-Fattah’s case last week after the ruling military council, under pressure from mass protests in Tahrir, relinquished its right to investigate the Maspero clashes.
According to Shrouk newspaper which said it obtained details of the investigation session, prosecutors have now accused Abd El-Fattah of committing acts that have indirectly led to the death of an army soldier, Mohamed Sayed Shata, who was killed during the Maspero clashes.
However, activist Mona Seif, Alaa's sister, told friends in a tweet that she could not confirm whether the State prosecutors actually charged Alaa with murder.
Seif was not reachable Tuesday to comment.
Shrouk also reported that prosecutors questioned the two eye witnesses that military prosecutors initially used to argue that Abd El-Fattah incited riots and attacked army personnel.
Meanwhile, Abd El-Fattah, who had refused to talk to military prosecutors on the grounds that he is a civilian, answered state prosecutors’ questions, denied all charges, and pointed out what he described as grave discrepancies in the testimonies of the government’s main eyewitnesses.
Prosecutors have extended Abd El-Fattah’s detention by 15 more days, pending further questioning.

Security source denies notorious CSF officer at large

An unnamed security source has refuted reports that police officer Mohamed Sobhy El-Shennawy, who is accused of deliberately shooting protesters in the eye with a shotgun, had been on the run.

State news agency Mena quoted the source as saying that El-Shennawy will be summoned to questioning within the next 72 hours. He also stated the first lieutenant's family has changed its occupation after receiving varied threats.
Earlier, Interior Minister Mansour El-Eissawy said that El-Shennawy was at large, stressing that he would be arrested "sooner or later".
El-Shennawy gained notoriety last week after an online video showing him shooting at protesters close to Tahrir Square – as soldiers from the Central Security Forces (CSF) cheered him on – was widely circulated.
The video was shot in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, which branches from Tahrir Square and leads towards the Ministry of Interior's headquarters.
This particular street witnessed fierce clashes between protesters and police forces throughout last week.
On Wednesday, general prosecutors officially launched an investigation of El-Shennawy, also known as the “sniper of the eyes”, and ordered his arrest.
Protesters in Tahrir Square, meanwhile, have sprayed graffiti and drawn posters attacking the CSF officer and demanding his arrest “dead or alive.”
On social network sites Facebook and Twitter, users posted his full name, address and some information about him.
A host of demonstrators have lost sight in their eyes during last week's confrontations, thanks to shotgun metal pellets.
The violent clashes, which went on for five days, ultimately left more than 40 protesters dead countrywide. Several thousands were injured.

preliminary election results

14:00 Ayman Nour says on Twitter that the Ghad Al-Thawra Party’s Abd El-Moneim El-Tonsi had won a seat in Assiut’s first district from fourth position on the FJP’s electoral list.

13:54 Supreme Electoral Commission member Alaa Qutb says the commission has received results from Kafr El-Sheikh, the Red Sea and several parts of Cairo, but final results will not be declared until the commission receives all the ballots from outside Egypt. Results from Kuwait are yet to reach the commission. 
13:50 With most votes counted in Port Said the FJP’s Akram El-Saher is on course to beat the independent George Ishak, a founder of the Kefaya movement, for the professionals' seat. The Egyptian Bloc’s El-Badry Farghaly is leading the race for the workers’ seat.
13:20 The head of the judicial vote-counting committee in Cairo’s second electoral constituency has decided to end the vote counting process because it was taking place in an unsafe atmosphere. Verbal clashes between the judicial committee and candidates’ representatives had taken place before Judge Moutaz Khafagy took his decision to cancel the tally. Military sources said they tried to convince the judge to proceed after increasing security measures but he refused. It is unclear whether the Supreme Electoral Commission will consider the election in this constituency void.
13:00 Final results from Assiut governorate's second constituency show there will be a runoff between Salah Ragab of the Salafist Nour Party and the FJP's Mohamed Salama Bakr for the professionals’ seat. There will also be a runoff between Mohamed Moussa of the FJP and the independent Hamada Zein for the workers’ seat.
12:56: Indicators show the Egyptian Bloc list is leading in Luxor, followed by the Freedom and Justice Party list and the Freedom Party list.
12:35 Head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party Mohamed Morsi says that the parliament’s majority will appoint the new government and that it will be a coalition government.
12:30 Cabinet: All Egyptian embassies that have conducted the first round of elections have already sent the voting ballots to the foreign ministry and the ministry has sent the results to the Supreme Electoral Commission.
12:25 In Assiut’s first constituency the FJP’s Samir Khashaba leads in the professionals’ individual seat, followed by the Egyptian Bloc’s Mahmoud Abu Lifa. Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya’s Bayoumy Ismail and former NDP member Ali Mohamed Hamdi are competing for the workers’ individual seat. These results are after 250 of 1014 ballot boxes had been counted.
In Assiut’s second constituency the FJP’s Mohamed Salama Bakr leads in the professionals’ individual seat. There is fierce competition between the FJP’s Mohamed Moder Mousa and the independent Hamada Zein Qorashy Ali for the workers’ individual seat. These results are after 80 of 1590 ballot boxes had been counted.
In Assiut’s third constituency the FJP’s Abd El-Aziz Khalaf is competing with the Salafist Nour Party’s Mahmoud El-Damour and the independent Othman Ibrahim Taha for the professionals’ individual seat. The FJP’s Abdallah Sadeq, the Salafist Nour Party’s Ahmed Hussein Ahmed and the independent Gamal Abd El-Baset Abd El-Hamid are competing for the workers’ seat. These results are after 350 of 574 ballot boxes had been counted.
In Assiut’s fourth constituency the independent Amir lamy, the FJP’s Hassan Abd El-Aal and former NDP member Mohamed Omar Ali Rashwan are competing for the professionals’ individual seat. The Salafist Nour Party’s Sheikh Amer Abd El-Reheem, the independent Nefeesa Abd El-Aziz and former NDP member Ahmed Saad Abu Aqrab are competing for the workers’ individual seat.
12:15 Diaa Rashwan, an expert on Islamic movements and head of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, expects Islamists, including the FJP, Salafists and Al-Jamaat Al-Islamyia, to win at least 65% of seats in the first round
11:20 Independent candidate Gameela Ismael is in a tight race with the Egyptian Bloc's Mohamed Hamed for the professionals' seat in Cairo's Kasr El-Nil.
10:00 Preliminary results indicate liberal activist Amr Hamzawy has won a seat in Heliopolis, Cairo. Hamzawy, a professor of political science, was running as an independent for the professionals’ seat.
09:50  Sameer Khashaba, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), has won an independent seat in the first constituency of the Assiut governorate. Bayoumy Ismael of Jamaa El-Islamiya is currently ahead of his competitor, the former NDP member Mohamed Hamdy Dssouky, in the race for the Assiut workers’ seat. In the second constituency, Salah Ragab, the individual candidate of the Salafist Nour Party is in the lead for the professionals’ seat.
09:45 Preliminary results show that the candidate list of the Freedom and Justice Party and the Egyptian Bloc are leading in the Red Sea governorate. Independent Coptic candidate Sameer Hars, FJP member Mohamed Abdel Aziz and the Salafist Abdel Hak El Sebaey are leading in the battle for the individual seats.
09:30 In Helwan, Cairo's ninth constituency, which includes Helwan, El-Basateen, El-Maadi, El-Masara, El-Tabeen, and Tora districts the Freedom and Justice (FJP) candidate list is winning so far.
In second place is the candidate list of the Salafist Nour Party, and in third place the Egyptian Bloc, which includes the leftist Tagammu Party and the liberal Free Egyptians Party.
Competition remains tense between Nour Party candidate Ahmed El-Dory and the independent Mustafa Bakry for one of the two individual seats. However, preliminary results show that Bakry is ahead by a small margin. As for the workers’ seat, Ramadan Omar, of the FJP is so far leading.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Yemen opposition names candidate to government


Mohammed Basindawa, a former member of Saleh's ruling party, was chosen late Friday to head a national unity government, Mohammed Qahtan, the spokesman of the opposition Common Forum told AFP on Saturday. "His name will be presented today (Saturday) to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi" who is now the executive president according to the Gulf-brokered deal signed Wednesday, he said.
Saleh signed the exit agreement in Riyadh after months of dodging domestic and international pressure to step down after 33 years in office.
According to the Gulf- and UN-sponsored roadmap, Saleh hands to Hadi "all powers necessary for proceeding with the Gulf initiative and its implementation mechanism and for organising early elections within a 90-day period which begins immediately after the signing." Saleh remains as an honorary president during this period, while the opposition puts forward a candidate to head a national unity government.
Saleh on Friday, however, appeared to continue to perform his role, ordering from Riyadh investigations into the shooting on protests in Sanaa by loyalist gunmen -- in what was seen as a breach of the deal. "We give President Saleh two days to stop those acts that are in violation of the agreement. In this transition period, the country is to be run according to the Gulf plan and its execution mechanism," said Qahtan.
Basindawa who was chosen to head the "National Council for the Forces of the Peaceful Revolution" after it was formed in August, served in governments under Saleh several times, including as a foreign minister.
Born in Aden, the capital of former South Yemen, Basindawa quit Saleh's General People's Congress some 10 years ago, becoming an opponent but without joining an opposition party.
Meanwhile, demonstrators in Sanaa's Change Square, the focal point of anti-Saleh protests that broke out in January, are due to hold a new rally Saturday afternoon. The protesters reject the deal that gives Saleh immunity against prosecution, and are demanding that he be tried.

Moroccan Islamist party chief ready for coalition government

The head of Morocco's moderate Islamists said Saturday he wanted a coalition government to promote democracy and good governance after his party claimed victory in parliamentary polls.
"The nub of our programme and of those who will govern with us will have a double axis, democracy and good governance," Abdellah Benkirane told the France 24 television channel.
"Today what I can promise Moroccans is that I am going to try, I and the team which will work with me, to be more serious and more rational," the leader of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) said.
A month after Islamists won Tunisia's post-revolution election and days before their predicted surge in Egyptian polls, their Moroccan counterparts claimed to have achieved a similar breakthrough without bloodshed.
With official results expected Sunday, PJD parliamentary bloc leader Lahcen Daoudi predicted the party would have more than 100 of the 395 seats in the assembly.
Under the new constitution, if the predicted results are confirmed, King Mohammed VI will have to name a prime minister from the PJD.
Benkirane acknowledged that his party would have to tailor its programme to appease its coalition partners and the international community on whose investment and tourism the country relies heavily.
"As far as alliances are concerned, we are open to everyone, I have always said that," he said.
"From now on, Moroccans will feel that the state is at their service and not the other way about," Benkirane added. "That is very important for us."

Kamal El-Ganzouri returns to premiership, tasked with forming new govt


Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) officially appointed Kamal El-Ganzouri as Prime Minister on Friday and commissioned him to draw up a new interim cabinet.
The appointment of El-Ganzouri, who succeeds Essam Sharaf as prime minister, was first revealed yesterday in an announcement that failed to appease protesters who have been calling on the SCAF and the SCAF-appointed Sharaf government to step down.
Critics say the 78-year-old El-Ganzouri, who previously served as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, is too old for the job. Others reject his appointment due to his closeness to the former regime.
Some anti-SCAF activists, meanwhile, insist that the person of the prime minister is insignificant as long as the military council remains in power.

CSF van runs over protester at cabinet HQ

Chaos erupted this morning in El-Qasr El-Aini thoroughfare after around six Central Security Forces vans approached a thousand-strong demonstration in front of the cabinet office, protesting the military council’s decision to appoint Kamal El-Ganzouri as the new prime minister.
Clashes reportedly broke out between protesters and Central Security Forces (CSF) as a young man named Ahmed Sayed Sorour, one of those taking part in the sit-in, was run over by a huge blue CSF van.
Media reports that Sorour, who appeared heavily bleeding in a youtube video, is confirmed dead.
Reportedly, the demonstrators told the police to leave in case demonstrators clash with them. The van drivers held their places until they called in for orders.
According to eyewitnesses from the sit-in, the police forces fired a couple of tear gas canisters after protesters at the cabinet hurled stones at the vans, forcing them to chaotically retreat.
While speaking to Al-Jazeera, a couple of eye witnesses say the police did not appear to have the intention to attack the sit-in.
“Actually, they did not know there was a sit-in,” one of the eyewitnesses said. “We heard an officer speaking on the radio saying that he did not know there were protesters in the street and that he would leave because he did not want to clash with them.
“But after protesters hurled stones at them they started to fire tear gas canisters and the scene became chaotic.”
The police forces fired a couple of tear gas canisters at the sit-in, causing around 15 protesters to lose consciousness.
The injured were taken to field hospitals in Tahrir Square, the site of a massive demonstration calling for an immediate end of the military junta's rule and the appointment of a national salvation government, led by presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei.
An eyewitness told Ahram’s Arabic portal that a police vehicle hit the victim and drove off, leaving him bleeding.
Reportedly, another protester was injured by a live round shot by the police.

Protesters converged on the cabinet building near Cairo’s Tahrir yesterday, not only to denounce El-Ganzouri’s appointment, but also to prevent him from entering the premises.
El-Ganzouri’s appointment has been largely rejected by post-revolutionary forces from across the political spectrum.
Critics say the 78-year-old El-Ganzouri, who was previously appointed as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, is too old to relate to revolutionaries or with Egypt's largely young population. Mostly, however, he is rejected for his close association to the former regime.
Some anti-SCAF activists, meanwhile, insist that whoever occupies the post of prime minister is insignificant as long as the military council remains in power.
The current interim government, under Prime Minister Sharaf is expected to remain in office until El-Ganzouri’s new cabinet is appointed. However, Sharaf and his cabinet have already resigned in protest over the violent police attack on Tahrir demonstrators.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amnesty says Egypt’s army continues Mubarak-era abuse as rulers call for crisis talks

Amnesty International said Egypt’s military rulers have “completely failed” to fulfill their promises to protect human rights and have even committed worse rights abuses than the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak, as the ruling military council called for crisis talks with the country’s political forces.

Political forces behind the uprising have called for a mass rally on Tuesday to demand that the army cede power to civilian rule as deadly clashes entered its fourth day, plunging Egypt into its worst crisis since Mubarak’s fall.

In a report released early Tuesday, Amnesty accused Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) of adopting oppressive tactics used by the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak, including targeting critics, banning critical media coverage and torturing protesters, according to The Associated Press.

The military council took control after Mubarak’s fall in February.

The report comes after three days of clashes between security forces and protesters calling for a transition to civilian rule. There was conflicting reports about the number of people killed during the clashes. Reuters put the number at 33 while AFP put it at 26 people killed.

Two people were killed early Tuesday in the Red Sea town of Ismailiya, medics said.

The group called on the military council to repeal the Mubarak-era “emergency laws,” and protect human rights.

Tahrir Square tense as numbers swell, revolutionaries articulate demands

Although prominent cleric Sheikh Mazhar Shaheen tried to mediate a truce between protesters and security ‎forces on Sunday, both sides nevertheless locked horns again in Cairo’s Tahrir Square ‎for the third consecutive day on Monday.

Calls for Egypt’s ruling military council to step down have ‎only grown louder, meanwhile, with a million-man march now slated for Tuesday. ‎
Shaheen said he had sat down with police commanders on Sunday and persuaded them to ‎release six demonstrators arrested during the last two days of ‎bloody confrontations. ‎ He also tried to persuade protesters and police to halt attacks on each other – but, ‎evidently, to no avail. ‎
‎ ‎
Thousands of protesters were in the square this morning, refusing ‎to leave the revolution’s epicentre. Some attempted to march to the ‎nearby interior ministry building, with security forces responding with teargas and gunfire.‎The numbers of protesters have been swelling since daybreak, reaching some 20,000 by early evening.

At one point, a group of young men met struck metal traffic signs with ‎wooden rods and stones at the entrance of Mohamed Mahmoud Street, which leads to ‎the interior ministry building and which has witnessed the fiercest clashes since Saturday.‎
The recurrent clashes now resemble trench warfare, with multitudes ‎of protesters swarming towards the interior ministry before being pushed back by teargas-firing security forces. Gunfire continues to echo throughout ‎the area. ‎
Numerous demonstrators have suffered the effects of ‎teargas, including suffocation, with several being taken to ‎ambulances near the Mogamma, Cairo’s largest administrative building, and to ‎makeshift field hospitals.‎
Security forces remain deployed on rooftops, as had been previously alleged. ‎From these vantage points, teargas canisters rained down on ‎protesters who continued their back-and-forth attacks and retreats for several hours. Some of them set fire to tyres strewn in the street.‎
According to Reuters, the total death toll from the last three days of violence has reached at least 33, while the number of injured has been put at roughly 1500.‎
Despite the turmoil, revolutionary forces have begun to articulate their demands. A large banner hung in the square’s central island this morning reads, “The people want a civilian presidential council.‎”
Another banner reads, “Al-Azhar wants the end of military rule.” ‎The banner was hung by a handful of Al-Azhar scholars, but does not necessarily reflect the institution’s official ‎position.‎
‎“We’ve yet to officially come up with our list of demands, but, basically, we want a national salvation ‎government, the departure of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and the release ‎of revolutionary detainees,” Khaled Abdel Hamid, a leading figure in the Revolution ‎Youth Coalition (RYC), told Ahram Online on Monday. ‎‎“I think these demands can be met if the varied political ‎forces unite and support those currently holding Tahrir.” ‎
The RYC, along with 37 other political parties and movements, have ‎announced plans to stage a million-man march in Tahrir Square on Tuesday ‎to reiterate these and other demands.
Ultras vendetta
Meanwhile, football fan groups, dubbed the “Ultras,” are outraged at the killing of some of their fellows by police during the clashes.‎
Vowing revenge on Sunday, they toured Tahrir Square bearing coffins of their murdered colleagues. “As some of us were killed, we will finish off some of theirs,” ‎one anonymous Ultra told Ahram Online on Sunday. ‎‎“And as they treated the bodies of our colleagues disrespectfully, so we will treat theirs.”‎
A widely circulated online video depicts a policeman dragging the body of a ‎young man, who appears to have just been killed. The body of the young man – believed to have been an Ultras ‎member – is eventually dumped on a trash pile.
On their official Facebook page, however, the Ultras Ahlawy – diehard fans of the Ahly football team – denied that any of their members had been killed in the clashes.
Egypt’s three major Ultras groups – Ultras Ahlawy, the White Knights and the ‎Yellow Dragons – all took part in the January revolution, with many at the forefront ‎of the bloody clashes between protesters and police forces.‎ In the nine months since, the Ultras’ relationship with police has deteriorated dramatically.‎

Reports: Egypt's military is considering ElBaradei to replace PM Sharaf, who resigned

According to the Al Hayat television channel’s political sources, Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is considering appointing Mohamed ElBaradei as the new prime minister.
A military source told Al-Ahram daily newspaper that SCAF is still studying Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s resignation and that parliamentary elections will not be postponed.
Parliamentary elections are set to take place 28 November.
The ruling military junta has yet to issue an official statement on the resignation of Sharaf’s government.
A Reuters report quotes a military source that says that SCAF will not accept the resignation until they agree to a replacement prime minister

Egypt military calls for crisis talks with political forces

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) "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," it said in a statement carried by the MENA news agency.
The SCAF -- which took power when Hosni Mubarak was ousted by a popular uprising in February -- called on "all forces and citizens to commit to (restoring) calm, and creating an atmosphere of stability with the goal of pursuing the political process."
The statement came on the third straight day of clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square that left 24 people dead, plunging Egypt into its worst crisis since Mubarak's fall.
The SCAF expressed its "deep sorrow over the deaths and injuries during the recent painful events, and offered its deepest condolences to the families of the victims."
It said it ordered security forces "to take all necessary measures to secure the demonstrators and to exercise the utmost restraint."

Martyrs’ families won't leave morgue until govt admits police killed loved ones

As Central Security Forces (CSF) continued clashing with thousands of young protestors in Tahrir Square’s Mohamed Mahmoud gate late for the third day in a row, 22 bodies of people who were protesting against the ruling military council had reached the Zeinhom morgue by 7pm Monday.
While more bodies were being brought in to the morgue in the early evening hours of a day that saw five more fatalities , mothers of the young men who lost their lives during the mass protests in Tahrir stood there all dressed in black, some wearing the full Islamic veil, weeping and screaming unable to comprehend their loss.   
A book-keeper who documents the count and  identity of dead bodies that arrive at the morgue told Ahram Online that the average age of the bodies that arrived was between 17 and 24.
He added that of the 22 young men he looked at so far, the identity of three victims could not be determined.
Aida El-Kashif, a political activist who had been in the square throughout the 3-day old clashes said that a family was going around looking for their son, 14-year old Mostafa Abd El-Rahman, who had been missing following the start of the clashes.
When approached and asked by El-Kashif  whether Mostafa 14 was amongst the dead, the book-keeper replied negatively.
The morgue book-keeper informed  El-Kashef that missing bodies could be still be found in four different Cairo hospitals, namely Mounira, Kasr El-Ainy, Helal and Ahmed Maher.
He advised El-Kashif and the family to begin searching for the young boy in these medical facilities next.
Another man at the morgue told Ahram Online that two of his relatives were severely wounded during the clashes and that one of them, his nephew, succumbed to his injuries.
The angry man added that the report issued by the hospital stated that his nephew died of severe low blood pressure although it was clear to a naked eye that he had sustained a bullet shot to the neck.
The man also told Ahram Online that the morgue has so far refused to perform forensic check-ups on the dead bodies, and that staff had told him that a hospital report which were based on surface-examinations of corpses
However, the man added that the families of the victims would refuse to leave the morgue unless proper autopsies that establish beyond reasonable doubt the real cause of death were performed.
According to 12 previous forensic reports issued from the Zeinhom morgue, where the bodies are being processed before burial rites, nine died of live ammunition, two died because of poisoning blamed on the tear gas, and one died as a result of damage to the skull.
Another women who had also lost a relative told Ahram Online that her 17 year old nephew, Mohamed Ahmed El-Abadi, was found with a bullet shot to his neck and another one to his shoulder.
Rights lawyer Taher Abd El-Malek said that the government took a long while to send its prosecutors to verify death certificates and issue the permits needed to bury the martyrs. He said that he believes that the government was probably unsure how to deal with the falloutfrom scale of the deaths caused by its own police.
One of the family members at the morgue confirmed Abd El-Malek’s suspicions, and said that the prosecution officer who visited the morgue entered quickly from the back door so as not to be confronted by angry fathers and mothers who have lost their sons.
As of Monday night, as the situation remains tense and clashes between hundreds of thousands of protesters and the police continue in Tahrir and elsewhere in the country, over 35 protesters have been killed, mostly in Cairo, and hundreds have sustained severe injuries that have required hospitalisation.

Sharaf government resigns, military council yet to accept offer

Following a meeting of the Crisis Management group of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, and a later meeting between Sharaf and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a government spokesman announced that Sharaf had submitted his government's resignation to SCAF on Monday evening.
The government spokesman, Mohamed Hegazi, said that "in appreciation of the critical situation in which the country is passing through, the government will continue to perform its duties until such a time as the SCAF decides upon the resignation."
He added that the government calls upon the people to exercise restraint in order "to restore order to the country and to enable it to take the first step towards democracy by concluding parliamentary elections."
As soon as news of the resignation reached the Tahrir protesters, whose numbers had swelled to close to 100,000, the square erupted in massive cheers, whistles and applause. Immediately, however, the demonstrators declared that the government's resignation fell well short of their demands, taking up the chant: "The people want the overthrow of the Field Marshal" in reference to Field Marshal Mohamed Tantway, the head of SCAF and minister of defence.
Though there has been no announcement as to whether SCAF has accepted the government's resignation or not, there is credible information that it has in fact been accepted.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf (Photo: Reuters)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Revolutionaries recapture Tahrir Square in a 'replay' of January uprising

Following a deadly standoff in Cairo’s Tahrir Square at sunset, thousands of protesters regained their ground, successfully expelling the military police and soldiers – dressed in riot gear and wielding bludgeons and electroshock weapons – who stood before rows of Central Security Forces (CSF) firing barrage after barrage of tear gas. The streets of downtown Cairo were filled with fleeing protesters, weaving their way through burning trees and thick clouds of the toxic gas.

When the square was finally reclaimed, at least three protesters had been reported killed, with a fourth death later reported from a makeshift field hospital.
Tahrir’s thousands remained in the iconic square throughout Sunday. Fatigued protesters stood their ground, as CSF personnel battled to shore up their position around Egypt’s Cabinet offices and the reviled interior ministry.
A cold peace reigned on Shiekh Rehan Street for most of the day, where the American University in Cairo’s campus lies off of Qasr El-Aini Street. On the adjacent Mohamed Mahmoud Street, however, a hard-fought battle has continued to rage, with waves of protesters being battered back by endless salvoes of tear gas canisters.
Despite the difficulties, however, protesters have continued to march down the overturned blacktop and torn-up pavement, loudly repeating a single refrain in reference to the country’s de factor ruler: “The people demand the ouster of the field marshal [Mohammed Hussein Tantawi]!”
Although numerous political forces have maintained a presence in the square – including the Revolution Youth Coalition, of which the April 6 youth movement is a part, the National Front for Justice and Democracy and the “No to Military Trials” campaign, among others – and while Islamists turned out in force on Saturday night but were conspicuously absent on Sunday, today’s melee was marked by a monolithic, faction-less stand against CSF forces and plain-clothed police.
Several protesters standing at the frontlines were quick to stress their lack of affiliation with any particular political party or group, noting that today’s demonstration was not a political rally.
Weary protesters, many having stayed in Tahrir from the previous evening, expressed their fury over the violent crackdown and the Saturday morning attack on activists injured in the January uprising. Revolutionary demands were drowned out amid the thick smoke and the roar of protesters chanting against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and its head, Tantawi.
Amid the palpable rage directed at the army and the ruling military council, any talk of elections or constitutions was all but inaudible if not completely absent. As of press time, the square's political forces – now two days into the latest violent turn of events – were only beginning the process of formulating their respective statements.
Field hospitals along Mohamed Mahmoud Street, meanwhile, continue to treat an endless stream of injured and traumatised protesters.
“In the past three or four hours, roughly 300 cases have been admitted to the field hospital,” said Ayman Abo Zied, an activist/medic currently treating the wounded. “Of these, roughly 100 – coming five or six at a time – suffered the debilitating effects of tear gas.”
“The CSF’s use of tear gas is as it was in the past – fired at head level,” he added. “The rest of the injuries have been due to buckshot and rubber bullets being fired at chest and head level as well.”
A medical student, Abo Zied was denied his final certificate after taking a political stand deemed “subversive” and taking part in the ongoing revolution. Within the last two days, he himself has sustained a buckshot injury to his jaw, while being struck in the left hand by a rubber bullet.
According to some protesters, the main field hospital itself fell under attack at one point by security personnel.
Another medic at the scene said that buckshot and rubber bullet injuries appeared to increase as the day progressed. Motorcycles were widely used to transport casualties, meanwhile, with many protesters refusing to use ambulances – which seldom ventured into the square – out of fear they would fall into the hands of the CSF.
“Protesters flatly refuse to use ambulances,” said Basel Magdy, another doctor at the scene.  “But in very serious cases, the first hospital they’re sent to is Mounira Hospital – not Qasr El-Aini."
Abo Zied noted the difficulties associated with documenting the numerous injuries, given the violence and chaos that has rocked the area over the last two days.
As of press time, the streets of Downtown Cairo were still teeming with protesters, while the square itself – the epicentre of the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak – is as fevered as ever. Many activists, for their part, could be heard referring to Saturday as the uprising’s nineteenth day – and today as the twentieth.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Seif al-Islam Qaddafi arrested in south Libya and is in custody of NTC fighters

Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of the former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, has been arrested in the south of the country, an official of the justice department of the National Transitional Council.

Seif al Islam was shown hours later nursing a hand injury in a photograph aired on Free Libya TV after his capture.

The photograph showed Seif al-Islam on what appears to be a reclining sofa with his fingers wrapped in bandages and his legs covered in a blanket.

NTC commander Bashir al-Tlayeb of Zintan brigades had confirmed to reporters fromTripoli that Seif al-Islam was arrested near the southern town of Ubari along with three of his companions.
Tlayeb said Seif al-Islam was in the hands of NTC fighters in the city of Zintan and that he would remain with them until the formation of a new Libyan government.

The commander refused to comment on where the son of former Libyan strongman will be tried for his alleged crimes.

But another NTC field commander, Adel Tarhouni, told Al Arabiya that Seif al-Islam will be tried in Libya and that fighters had raised the issue with Prime Minister Abdul al-Raheem al-Qeeb.

NTC fighter Meftah Ahmad Othman told Al Arabiya from the coastal city of Sirte that Seif al-Islam was captured in a dawn ambush carried out by “Khaled Bin al-Walid” fighters who are part of “Abu Bakr al-Siddiq” brigade.

Ahmad Othman added that Seif al-Islam was flown to Zintan and that his capture was not announced until his detention site was fully secured.

One of his companions is a senior commander in the Qaddafi’s regime, but his name was not immediately revealed, Ahmad Othman said.

The International Criminal Court in the Hague issued warrants on June 27 against Seif al-Islam as well as his father and Abdullah al-Senussi, former intelligence chief, on charges of crimes against humanity.

Tarhouni said that reports suggest that Senussi and his family have fled to Algeria.

Al Arabiya''s correspondent from Tripol says news of the arrest of Seif al-Islam was received with “great jubilation,” adding that many Libyans said the joy will only be complete when Senussi is arrested.

Celebratory gunfire could be heard in the background during a phone call with Al Arabiya's correspondent from Tripoli.

Seif al-Islam, at 39 is the oldest of Qaddafi’s seven children. Before the February uprising in Libya, he was seen in the West as a liberal reformist, but his staunch support for his father’s brutal crackdown of the uprising severely damaged his domestic and international image.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Egypt Cabinet: Discussions over supra-constitutional document to continue next week

Egypt's Cabinet has issued a statement that more discussions between all political actors over Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs Ali El-Selmi's document will continue nesxt week. The statement came after hundreds of thousands, mostly Islamists, demonstrated in Tahrir Square demanding the document be revoked. 
The statement also came contrary to what several media reports had previously stated that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has decided to postpone the discussions over El-Selmi’s document containing supra-constitutional principles until after the elections.

Forty thousand Egyptians in Saudi Arabia register to vote in parliamentary elections

Egypt’s consulate in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah on Sunday received a myriad of Egyptians registering themselves to be eligible to vote in the upcoming Egyptian parliamentary elections.
Consul Ali El-Esheri, vice consuls and other volunteers assisted in wrapping up the registration process.
In total, 40,000 Saudi-based Egyptians registered to vote in the forthcoming elections: the highest number of expatriate voters in any country.
Unofficial estimates place the number of Egyptians living in Saudi Arabia at around three million.

Swiss slap sanctions on Iran's top diplomat

Switzerland said Friday it has tightened sanctions against Iran, adding 116 names including Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to a blacklist of key players under financial and travel embargo.
The updated blacklist includes several officials from the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), and 111 companies, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said.
Ali Akbar Salehi is the former head of the AEOI.
Swiss sanctions cover 250 individuals and institutions in total.
In January, Bern slapped financial restrictions on the Iranian oil and gas industry, bringing sanctions in line with those imposed by some other major economies.
Measures introduced then included an extension of a ban on deliveries of dual-use goods, technology or software that can be used in weapons production, as well as on heavy weapons exports.
They also included financial restrictions, including a requirement to declare transfers of sums exceeding 10,000 francs (8,086 euros, $10,952).
The UN atomic watchdog's board was expected Friday to approve a resolution of "deep and increasing concern" about Iran's nuclear activities after a damning new report from the Vienna-based body.
The resolution, tabled at the International Atomic Energy Agency by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, says it is "essential for Iran and the Agency to intensify their dialogue."
Last week, the IAEA came the closest yet to accusing Iran outright of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, in a report immediately rejected by the Islamic republic as "baseless."

Turkey warns of civil war in Syria

The conflict in Syria risks turning into a civil war, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told AFP Friday.
Davutoglu pointed to the new attacks by army defectors, "therefore I say there is a risk of transforming into civil war. It is now the right time to stop this massacre, and therefore the Arab initiative is important," he said.
The Arab League has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a deadline to halt his "bloody repression" of anti-regime protests or risk sanctions.
"If it is not successful of course there is always a risk of civil war or high level tension in Syria," Davutoglu added.
Up until now the Turkish dipolmat said it has been "difficult to call it a civil war because in civil war there are two parties attacking each other.
"But in this case usually civilians are being attacked by the security forces."
The eight-month revolt in Syria has turned increasingly violent, with the Free Syrian Army, made up of army defectors, mounting a daring attack this week against a military intelligence base near the capital and the opposition becoming more militarised.
Davutoglu also said that Turkey was prepared to help the opposition Syrian National Council to develop its relations within Syria and with the international community.
"At this stage it is important that the (opposition council) has access to the international community, the Syrian people, and that it has a solid base as an organisation of the Syrian people," he said.

SNC spokesperson: Syrian opposition not driven by foreign agendas


In an interview with Ahram Online, Basma Kodmani, spokesperson for the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), talked about the council’s efforts to garner international support for a United Nations resolution against the embattled regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.
Kodmani pointed to SNC Chairman Burhan Ghalyoun’s recent visit to Russia, which has continued to block UN action against Syria, as an example of such efforts.
Internally, the SNC’s primary mandate would be to support a fact-finding mission dispatched by Arab rights organisations to Syria, Kodmani said, noting that the council had already set up a committee to provide the mission with logistical support and ensure observers' freedom of movement.
At an Arab ministers' meeting last week, the Arab League called for talks between Syria's various opposition movements to be held under league auspices. According to Kodmani, a preparatory committee has been drawn up in advance of a scheduled opposition conference to be sponsored by the pan-Arab body.
Kodmani rejected the view that foreign agendas, regional or international, were driving the Syrian opposition. The real agenda, she said, was "to deal with the crisis on the Syrian street in one way, that is, to curb the regime."
Kodmani went on to say that Iranian support for the Syrian regime must end, adding that the opposition would "move against the regime" with Arab League backing, regardless of the political transformations currently taking place in the region.
Asked about ongoing contacts between the SNC and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Kodmani acknowledged that the SNC had contacted the UNHRC, stressing that the SNC was in touch with a number of international rights organisations. She went on to note the importance of the UNHRC's role in monitoring and reporting the situation on the ground.
As for the Assad regime’s response to a recent Arab League initiative aimed at halting the ongoing crackdown against anti-government protesters, Kodmani asserted that there was no serious intention to do so. She expects the 500 observers currently in Syria to be harassed.
“How is it that, after the Arab League gives the regime a few days to end the crackdown, the regime responds by requesting an emergency Arab summit?” asked Kodmani.
Kodmani reiterated the SNC’s commitment to implementing Arab League resolutions, emphasising that "all methods" would be used to stop the violence in Syria.
She concluded by saying that all factions of the Syrian opposition must come to consensus about a vision for the transitional period. 

Qaradawi criticises Egypt military council during Friday prayers speech in Qatar

In a speech following Friday prayers in Qatar's capital Doha, Egyptian sheikh Yousef El-Qaradawi highlighted the importance of quick presidential elections after the parliamentary polls in Egypt, adding that the military council should not prolong the transition period.
Qaradawi stressed in his speech that no one should have authority over the Egyptian people, not even the military council, adding that there should be no supra-constitutional principles and that the parliament has the right to set the constitution, and everyone else should abide with what the parliament decides.
In his speech Qaradawi referred to Egypt’s demonstrations in Tahrir Square, describing it as the place where Egyptians go to make their voices heard, adding that “there are some who are deaf so cannot hear and dumb so they cannot understand.” He urged Egyptians to vote for those who are just and honest, and not to give their voices to some just because they are rich or famous. 

Islamists dominate Egypt's Tahrir Square's dense Friday protest

Hundreds of thousands of protesters descended on Tahrir Square Friday to call for one principal demand: an end to military rule and a swift transfer of power to an elected president by April 2012.
Although labelled the 'Friday of One Demand', repudiation of the supra-constitutional principles, dubbed “El-Selmi’s Document,” equally resounded across the square.

The supra-constitutional principles, proposed by Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs Ali El-Selmi, have been the source of much ire by the vast majority of political parties and groups, especially Islamists, who believe they will win a majority in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, and thus would have an upper hand in drafting the constitution.

The so-called Selmi document, critics say, will grant the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) unfettered powers and place undue conditions on the formation of a constituent assembly charged with drafting Egypt’s new constitution.

For months now, the ruling SCAF has increasingly found itself in sticky situations for a multitude of reasons including: the chronic security vacuum, the continuing military trials of civilians, a deteriorating national economy and for “ignoring” the demands of the January 25 Revolution.

Upon assuming power following the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February, the SCAF vowed to end its interim rule after a six-month transitional period.

This has not been the case, as the ruling military council has maintained its hold on power for over 10 months. Egyptians from across the political and ideological spectrum have in turn run out of patience, taking to the streets to call for a fixed timeline bookended by the speedy departure of the military rulers.

Islamists dominated Tahrir’s Friday rally in what was a show of force by groups and parties from Egypt’s broad political and ideological landscape. The result was the largest gathering in Cairo’s revolutionary square since the last time Islamists coalesced in Tahrir for what was mockingly dubbed “Kandahar Friday” on 29 July.

Of the participating Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), were the most visible, outnumbering their counterparts. The group has notably boycotted most of the million-man marches that took place following the popular 18-day uprising.

Apart from flags, shirts and green caps emblazoned with the groups logo, two criss-crossed swords, the Islamist group came readied with their banners bearing emblems of the FJP and the Brotherhood’s student groups. Several banners indicated the various members’ governorate of origin in a show of their mobilisation power.

Salafists were also heavily represented in Tahrir, particularly by Al-Nour (Light) and Al-Asala (Authenticity) parties, believed to be the two largest Salafist parties in Egypt.

The Islamist and Salafist currents have been strongly opposed to Selmi’s proposed principles from the get go.

“This document has absolutely no legitimacy, it wasn’t voted on and those who drafted it were not chosen by the people,” a Salafist sheikh said from one of the podiums. “The military council came up with it as a buffer for the other [non-Islamic] political currents, but they have also rejected it.”

Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya also participated in the demonstration, stating that the proposed principles “do not reflect the will of the people”. Al-Jamaa spokesperson Assem Abdel Maged said stressed that “the will of the people is the most important thing, and the ‘El-Selmi document’ goes against this will.”

Al-Jamaa also called for the release of blind cleric Omar Abdel Rahman who has been detained for nearly two decades. A leading figure of Al-Jamaa, Abdel Rahman was given a life sentence for his "involvement" in the 1993 World Trade Centre ‎bombing.

His family along with members of Al-Jamaa have for months been calling on the SCAF to lobby for his release.

Other unaffiliated Islamists lifted images of the late Al-Qaeda mastermind, Osama bin Laden, praising him as a martyr.

April 6 Youth Movement was the largest non-Islamic political force in Tahrir though a wide range of other political forces took part in the event, such as the Revolutionary Socialists, the Bedaya (Beginning) Movement, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Revolution Youth Coalition and the No to Military Trials campaign.

Syrian protesters made their way into the mix, protesting against much reviled Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. They branded him a killer and called for his immediate removal from power.

Hundreds of Egyptian and Syrian protesters carried a huge flag of the former Syrian Republic - before the 1963 Baathist coup - while others waved normal-sized Egyptian and Syrian flags, as they all demanded Assad’s departure.

There were, however, a handful of political parties who boycotted Friday’s protest. The liberal Wafd Party, for one, announced its rejection of today’s demonstration. In statements to the media, the Wafd’s Secretary-General Fouad Badrawy stressed that the country was desperately in need of stability during the current, critical interim phase.

The liberal Free Egyptians Party also boycotted Friday's protest, along with the Nasserist Karama Party. The latter gave further reasoning to its boycott, stating that the protest had been "hijacked by other powers," in reference to Egypt's powerful Islamist forces.

The leftist Tagammu Party and the Egyptian Communist Party had also announced plans steer clear of Friday's protest.

As Friday’s big protest winds down, the day has been marked by peaceful protest with no clashes or confrontations as some anxiously speculated.

It remains unclear whether demonstrators will stage a sit-in, as they continue to debate this option among themselves. Many Islamists, however, opted to leave by dusk.

Popular preacher Safwat Hegazi took to the podium, urging the Brotherhood, Salafists and Al-Jamaa to unite. Furthermore, in a dig at the SCAF, he assured his listeners that parliamentary elections will be held under no matter what happens.

“Securing the elections should be our responsibility,” he said. “We need to make sure the ballots will be safe and also blow the whistle on the candidates from the [now-dismantled] National Democratic Party,” said Hegazi, whose speech was followed by the departure of many Islamist leaders.

Islamist presidential hopeful Selim El-Awa also gave a speech but promised to remain in Tahrir until all demands are met. Awa used his speech to condemn the ‘Selmi document’ and demand that the military council hold to the three-stage election schedule.

Other Islamist forces threatened to “peacefully escalate the revolution” should the SCAF show no response.