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Egyptians by the Hundreds Arrested after Protests
May 7, 2012

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Hundreds of Egyptian protesters remain in custody after a week of sometimes fierce street battles with police near security headquarters in Cairo.

Tahrir Square, site of so many huge protests against the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, was once again the scene for a large group of people protesting against the government. It was the latest in a growing series of such protests, but the Friday one ended when security forces arrested about a hundred protesters and ordered the rest of the crowd to disperse. The military-run government acted with great speed in prosecuting those arrested, sentencing many of them to 15 days' detention while authorities investigate accusations of lashing out against troops and perpetrating overall disruption of the public peace. Two people detained face more serious accusations, as two soldiers died in the attacks, which also resulted in the deaths of nine protesters.

The Friday protest followed by a couple of days an armed confrontation between government supporters and sympathizers of the Salafi party, whose presidential candidate was recently disqualified from the election, along with nine other candidates. A dozen people died in the attacks. Security forces extended for a third night a curfew in the part of Cairo around the Defence Ministry, scene of the violent protests. The curfew was in place from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which also found its presidential candidate disqualified, staged a protest march of its own on Friday, but that protest did not turn violent, despite similar calls for the ruling generals to turn over power earlier than 1 July, which has long been the stated handover date.

Both houses of Parliament have been filled with newly elected members, and the presidential election takes place May 23–24, with a winner declared in June, after a runoff, if necessary.

In Parliament itself, a majority of lawmakers approved a law restricting the new president from sending non-military people before military tribunals — an occurrence that was all too common under Mubarak and has continued to be the case under the caretaker government presided over by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The law was in part a reaction to the earlier detaining of hundreds of people following a street protest that turned violent. Under the new law, the military would retain the right to call a military tribunal for civilians but the president would no longer have that power.

On Sunday, members of Parliament met with the deputy chief of SCAF to discuss ways to resolve the ongoing crises, including the government's planned but still unimplemented shuffle of Cabinet officials. (MPs had called for the entire Cabinet to be disbanded and had suspended Parliament sessions for a week.)


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