CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptians demonstrated on Friday demanding that ousted President Hosni Mubarak and other former officials be put on trial and calling for the ruling army council to end 30 years of emergency law.
Mubarak was toppled on February 11, but reformers who drove the protests that brought him down are concerned by what they see as the lingering influence of elements from his administration.
Activists called for Friday’s rally to “protect the revolution.” One banner in Cairo’s Tahrir Square read: “The people want corruption put on trial to save the revolution.”
The reformers want tougher steps to recover assets they say Mubarak and others took from the state and seek deeper change in Egypt which is now ruled by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, led by the defense minister who served under Mubarak.
The protesters want to reduce the power of the military ahead of a presidential election, the immediate release of all political detainees and an end to military trials of civilians.
Banners renewed demands for a lifting of the emergency law, which was used to detain politicians and members of opposition groups and widely seen as a way of stifling political life.
“I came because the military has been very slow in putting the people in the old regime on trial. Mubarak has not been charged with murder for the people who were killed,” said Alaa Hashim, 28, an engineer, among protesters in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising.
A legal representative for Mubarak has denied media reports the former president amassed enormous wealth in office, saying Mubarak submitted his final financial statement to the concerned judicial bodies as required by law.
Tens of thousands streamed in and out of Tahrir Square through the day, fewer than the hundreds of thousands who protested at the height of rallies to topple Mubarak. About 2,000 also protested in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea. Others gathered in the cities of Suez and Mahalla el-Kubra.
But many Egyptians are more concerned about the deterioration in law and order and disruption to their daily lives that they blame on the continued protests.
Soon after the resignation of Mubarak, Egypt’s public prosecutor issued a list of people whose cash, shares, bonds, real estate and other assets had been frozen.
The list includes Mubarak, his wife and their two sons, as well as business executives, former officials and their relatives. It has grown to more than 180 people.
“The Supreme Council (of the Armed Forces) is arresting people for demonstrating but not putting people on trial who stole millions,” said Ahmed al-Sherif, 45, a teacher of religious studies at al-Azhar, a prestigious seat of Sunni learning.
A committee set up by Egypt’s military rulers that aims to recover frozen assets belonging to Mubarak and other leading officials on Thursday banned three former top officials from leaving Egypt pending a probe into the source of their wealth.
The decision applies to Fathi Sorour, the former speaker of the lower house of parliament, Safwat el-Sherif, a senior member of the ruling party and head of the upper house of parliament, and Zakaria Azmi, one of Mubarak’s senior aides.
An online group with 300,000 Web supporters called for the prosecution of those three figures, calling them “the trio of evil.” It also calls for swift trials.
“The counter-revolution is attempting to abort our demands by claiming that with the mere fall of the president and the dissolution of parliament, the people’s demands have been accomplished, “the online page read.
One protester held a banner reading: “I have lost too much during this revolution, I won’t let anyone steal it from me.”
“This turnout shows we still have legitimacy on our side. I felt like I was suffocating for two weeks and being back here is uplifting. I can breathe again,” Ahmed, 24, said.
Activists said they were also protesting over a proposed law they said curtailed freedom of expression.
The draft law, that imposes prison sentences and fines for some strike action, has been criticized by rights groups. Human Rights Watch said the draft law violates international laws on freedom of assembly and must be scrapped.
Ministers say the law is aimed at returning order to Egypt.
Writing by Sherine El Madany; Editing by Edmund Blair and Janet Lawrence