Egypt’s new cabinet meets as protests continue

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

newly appointed cabinet met Monday as the government attempted to
reassert stability over the turbulent country with protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square continuing to resist the new administration.

The cabinet met without the widely despised former interior minister, Habib al-Adly — replaced by another police general, Mahmud Wagdi — and some signs of freedom were becoming apparent for the large number of protesters detained over the last two weeks.

Following widespread international outrage, a Google executive was scheduled to be released Monday afternoon, Egyptian television reported. Wael Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, had traveled to Egypt from his home in Dubai and was believed arrested Jan. 27.

Ghonim was arrested after joining the protests in central Cairo, according to Amnesty International investigators who spoke to eyewitnesses.

Ghonim announced on his Twitter feed before his
arrest that he had been “brutally beaten up by police people.” Not long
before he disappeared, he wrote: “Very worried as it seems that
government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all
ready to die.”

The release of prisoners has been a key demand of opposition representatives who met with newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman.
They also are looking immediately for greater press freedom, a lifting
of emergency laws, and restraint in the use of force against
anti-government protesters, in addition to comprehensive political

Government spokesman Magdy Rady said there has been so much instability that “some groups” may be holding detainees without the government’s authorization.

“In the mess we are in, everything is possible,”
Rady told the Associated Press, adding that the government is
investigating all reports of missing persons. “We are really against
these forces now,” he said.

Protest leaders say the security services have been
responsible for widespread detentions and beatings, and while the
cabinet began the day-to-day business of attempting to restore normalcy
to the country, their occupation of Tahrir Square continued.

Large crowds filled the square through much of
Sunday night with loud speeches, music and celebrations, though the
carnival-like atmosphere turned briefly into panic with the sound of an
extended burst of automatic gunfire. It was reportedly shots fired into
the air by a soldier as a warning to activists who had moved in to
protect a line of razor wire blocking access to the square.

Past midnight, the square settled into quiet, and
the numbers by morning were significantly smaller, though many
protesters were still sleeping in tents. Protest leaders said larger
numbers were expected at the square after returning to their homes for
the night.

“No one has tired out,” said Mina Fakhouri, a business student from Mnoufia. “No one is going to be tired before he (President Hosni Mubarak) resigns, even if it takes six months.”

Aya Elkabbany, 25, who has been coming to the square
since the first day of protests, said protesters would not vacate
before Mubarak’s departure.

“These people that came here won’t leave except as
corpses,” said Elkabbany, who teaches in a dental school. “We are still
sitting because we are convinced that this country will be fixed.”


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