CAIRO -- Several thousand Islamists rallied in Tahrir Square for the third Friday running, calling for a fair and transparent presidential election among other democratic demands that remain unfulfilled since last year's toppling of President Hosni Mubarak.
Most of those taking part in the march -- dubbed "Protecting the Revolution" -- were from the Muslim Brotherhood, the nation's most potent political force. They were joined by supporters of ultraconservative Salafi lawyer Hazem Abu Ismail, who was disqualified from the presidential race last week amid revelations that his mother became a U.S. citizen before she died.
Demonstrators chanted against the ruling military council and condemned the Supreme Electoral Committee for its decision to allow Ahmed Shafik, a Mubarak-era prime minister, to run in next month's presidential poll. Shafik was disqualified Tuesday after the Supreme Council of Armed Forces approved a law barring Mubarak ministers from seeking office. But the electoral committee restored him to the ballot Thursday.
"The committee that unjustly dismissed Abu Ismail from elections is the same one that violated the political isolation law and brought back Shafik, one of Mubarak's men, to competition," said Sayed Gad, a civil servant.
Protesters in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities also called for the abolition of Article 28 of the constitutional declaration issued by the military council last year. The provision states that the electoral committee's decisions are final and can't be appealed in the courts.
"I do not trust members of this electoral committee to oversee fair and transparent elections," Gad said. "They are working under the army's orders to bring back a Mubarak trustee to rule the country, and no one can dispute their acts."
Friday's march was boycotted by liberal political groups, which accused Islamists in general and the Brotherhood in particular of working to advance an Islamic political agenda.
"Islamists were the first to approve that Article 28, and now they're protesting it because they realized it clashes with their interests," said Mahmoud Gaber, secretary-general of Tahrir Party. "We won't be like a flock following a group working on its own to seize power."
Photo: Supporters of ultraconservative Salafi politician Hazem Abu Ismail march in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday. Credit: Associated Press