EGYPT: Protesters call on military to try Hosni Mubarak and his cronies
Tens of thousands of demonstrators returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday to demand the prosecution of former President Hosni Mubarak and accuse the ruling Supreme Military Council of not acting quickly enough to bring corrupt members of the old regime to justice.
Frustration among millions of Egyptians has risen after a number of former ministers in the Mubarak government were arrested but have yet to be indicted on corruption and other charges. While Mubarak and his family members have had their financial assets frozen and are banned from leaving the country, the ex-president has not been charged with any crimes.
A special panel set up by the current interim government headed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf is expected to question Mubarak’s younger son, Gamal, next week. "We want Mubarak and other corrupt officials put on trial and charged. Why does convicting a thug or a thief take a few days while indicting someone like Mubarak -- we all witnessed his shameful acts -- takes months and maybe years?” said protester Mohamed Fawzi.
The consistent delays and adjournments of court hearings of previous ministers has increased concerns among protesters that Mubarak and his ex-officials might escape justice. Many Egyptians claim government officials enriched themselves through graft, conflicts of interest, kickbacks and other crimes while more more than 40% of the population lived on $2 a day or less.
“Now we have a suspicion that Mubarak struck a deal with the military before they toppled him. We fear that the military council asked him to step down and assured him he won’t be put on trial in return,” said another protester, Abdel Azim Mukhtar, a 41-year-old accountant.
Once considered heroes for playing their part in ousting Mubarak, the head of the Military Council Field Marshal, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and other military council members are now facing a crisis of trust with many Egyptians.
“Field Marshal Tantawi, you are out of credit,” read one sign carried by a protester on Friday. Another banner addressed the military by saying: “Military Forces, you have a place in our hearts, don’t lose it.”
According to Mukhtar, despair is growing among all Egyptians because of the unexplainable delay in cracking down on corruption that permeated Mubarak's government. “Those few former ministers are no more than scapegoats, but there are hundreds of former Mubarak aids and allies who remain untouched.”
A group of protesters suggested that now might be the time for the military forces to get back to their role of defending Egypt.
“We don’t want the military to do politics because they’re not good at it. We also don’t want to clash with the military, so it will be better for all of us and for Egypt to have a presidential council ruling the country until the presidential elections,” says Ismael Hosny, a 55-year-old engineer.
The Supreme Military Council announced last week that it will hold of power until a new president is elected in October or November. A new parliament is expected to be elected in September.
--Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Protesters wave Egyptian flags in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday. Credit: Reuters