* Google executive's interview "moved millions"
* Executive was seized off the street
(Adds background in paragraphs 8,9)
By Marwa Awad and Andrew Hammond
CAIRO, Feb 8 One man's tears provided a new
impetus on Tuesday to protesters in Egypt seeking to keep up
momentum in their campaign, now in its third week, to topple
President Hosni Mubarak.
Wael Ghonim, a Google executive detained and blindfolded by
state security for 12 days, broke down in a television interview
on Monday after his release saying a system that arrested people
for speaking out must be torn down.
"Ghonim's tears have moved millions and turned around the
views of those who supported (Mubarak) staying," website
Masrawy.com wrote two hours after Ghonim's TV appearance. In
that short span, 70,000 people had signed up to Facebook pages
Egypt's turbulent protests have entered their third week.
Demonstrators have been camping out in Tahrir Square for days to
press their demand that Mubarak, a U.S. ally who has ruled for
30 years, quit now.
On Tuesday, Ghonim joined them for another mass protest that
drew in well over 100,000 people.
"You are the heroes. I am not a hero, you are the heroes,"
he told the cheering crowd.
"My condolences to the fathers and mothers who lost sons and
daughters who died for their dream. These are the real heroes
who gave up their lives for their country," he told Reuters
afterwards. "I saw young people dying and now the president has
a responsibility to see what the people demand," he said, adding
these demands include Mubarak stepping down.
SEIZED OFF THE STREETS
Google's head of marketing in the Middle East, Ghonim was
seized off the streets by plainclothes men two days after the
protests began on Jan. 25 -- protests he had promoted by setting
up a special Facebook page.
Neither Google nor his family had any clue where he was and
feared for his life. In detention he was not informed of events
outside and interrogated over what the authorities believed were
foreign powers behind the Facebook campaign and Jan. 25 protest.
When the interviewer told Ghonim live on TV about some of
the 300 people who died in the unrest while he was incarcerated,
"We didn't do anything wrong. We did what our consciences
dictated to us," he said in the interview, overcome with remorse
for his role in mobilising people through the Internet.
Within minutes of the interview's conclusion, thousands had
joined new pages on social networking sites.
"I authorise Wael Ghonim to speak in the name of Egypt's
revolutionaries" -- the main support page -- had gathered more
than 120,000 "likes" within 12 hours.
"I knew about 200 people who supported Mubarak and wanted
the revolution to end. But after they saw Wael Ghonim and the
lies of Egyptian media they will go to Tahrir," Mida Acura wrote
on one of the Facebook pages.
State TV has portrayed the protesters who have closed off
Tahrir, a pivotal urban space in central Cairo, as irresponsible
radicals who are destroying the economy and have been
manipulated by unspecified foreigners.
The government has been piling on pressure for the
protesters to leave. It says they are holding up an economic
recovery after damage caused by the uprising. Some Cairenes are
annoyed by the inconvenience of the 24-hour sit-in.
Mubarak supporters staged violent attacks on them last week,
leaving 11 dead and over 1,000 wounded. An army commander asked
them to quit the square to "save Egypt".
GHONIM AS EGYPT'S BOUAZIZI
"Wael Ghonim is the Bouazizi of the Egyptians," wrote
journalist Mohamed al-Jarhi, referring to the Tunisian Mohamed
Bouazizi who helped launch Tunisia's own uprising last month by
setting himself on fire in protest at poverty and corruption.
Activists used Facebook, Twitter and other socia media to
spread word of protests after Tunisia's ruler Zine al-Abidine
Ben Ali fled on Jan. 14. It was so effective that Egypt's
government shut down the Internet for days during the uprising.
In the outpouring of Internet activity early on Tuesday,
users posted the pictures of many of those who died and many who
had been prepared to give the 82-year-old leader a chance said
now they wanted to push on until Mubarak caves in.
Activists say Ghonim's tears contrast with the lack of
remorse that protesters perceive from Mubarak. He made no
mention of the deaths in a speech to the nation last week.
"Something big is happening. No one expected today to be
that huge," Zainab Mohamed, a well-known Egyptian blogger who
uses the name Zeinobia, told Reuters.
"Hundreds of young people are killed all over the country
and Mubarak didn't have the courtesy to say we're sorry or
express his sorrow to the families. Wael's tears were much more
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Wright; Writing by Andrew
Hammond; Editing by Michael Roddy)