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Wael Ghonim, freed Google exec, speaks to crowd of thousands in Cairo protest

February 8, 2011 | 11:12 am

Ghonim in Cairo

Wael Ghonim's popularity in Egypt is growing as he joined anti-government protests on Tuesday for the second day in a row.

Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, took part in the protests on Jan. 25 when they began, but was taken into government custody on Jan. 27 and held until Monday.

The Cairo native, who was living in Dubai before the demonstrations began, was kept blindfolded during his 12-day captivity, he said.

Once freed, Ghonim sent out a couple of messages on Twitter, gave a quick interview, returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo, which has been the center of the protests that Tuesday entered their 15th day.

The protests have called for many government reforms, but most of all, the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for about three decades.

As reported by Alexandra Zavis on The Times' Babylon & Beyond blog, Ghonim took an opportunity on Tuesday, before a crowd of thousands and with a microphone in hand, to call for Mubarak's ouster.

Many in the crowd said they were inspired by Wael Ghonim, who gave an emotional television interview Monday night in which he sobbed over those who have been killed in two weeks of clashes between protesters and security forces.

Ghonim, Google's head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, administered a Facebook page that helped spark the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak's oppressive regime.

The Associated Press reports that Ghonim spoke briefly to the crowd, telling them, "We will not abandon our demand and that is the departure of the regime."

When he finished speaking, the crowd erupted in cheering, whistling and deafening applause, the AP said.

Google officials were unavilable for comment Tuesday morning.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Google executive Wael Ghonim, left, with microphone, addresses a mass crowd inside Tahrir Square in Cairo. Credit: Dylan Martinez / Reuters

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