By Jailan Zayan
By Jailan Zayan
Cairo, January 27, 2012 (AFP)
Thousands of protesters gathered for prayers in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday ahead of a mass rally to demand democratic change, a year after the uprising that toppled veteran president Hosni Mubarak.
Marches were to leave Cairo mosques after noon prayers towards Tahrir, on a day dubbed “the Friday of Pride and Dignity” by the dozens of pro-democracy groups organising the rallies.
In Tahrir, protesters, who joined hundreds already camped out since Wednesday’s anniversary of the uprising, gathered in prayer amid the tents that marked the sit-in.
Waving flags and holding up banners, the protesters are demanding the implementation of the goals of the revolution, including an end to military trials of civilians, the restructuring of the interior ministry and a guarantee of freedoms and social justice.
“Come on Egyptians, hand in hand, we will see a new dawn!” the protesters chanted.
Demonstrations were also expected in other parts of the country, including the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the canal city of Suez.
Friday’s rallies mark a year since the army was deployed to control the deadly protests calling for an end to Mubarak’s regime.
The military took power when Mubarak resigned on February 11, in a dramatic turn of events for the Arab world’s most populous nation who had known the same president for 30 years.
But a year later, many are disenchanted and even angry at the ruling military, who protesters accuse of human rights abuses and of reneging on promises of reform.
“Leave!” the independent daily Al-Fagr told the military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s longtime defence minister.
Friday’s rally is to send “the military back to the barracks,” the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm said on its front page.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has vowed to cede power to civilian rule by June when a new president has been elected, and has repeatedly pointed to recent parliamentary elections — which saw Islamists sweep most of the seats — as proof of its intention to abandon politics.
But protesters accuse the military of seeking to maintain some degree of control over the country’s affairs, even after June.
On Tuesday, Tantawi announced the partial lifting of a decades-old state of emergency in an apparent bid to placate protesters.
But he said the law would still apply to cases of “thuggery”, a move slammed by human rights groups and activists who say the term is too broad and gives authorities free rein to stifle freedoms.
Leading dissident and Nobel laureate Mohammed ElBaradei has proposed a new political timetable for the country which calls for the newly elected parliament “to elect an interim president immediately,” followed by the formation of a panel to draft a new constitution.
In a statement on his Facebook page, ElBaradei said the new charter “must define the political system and guarantee a civil state, rights and freedoms.”
A president would then be elected “whose powers are defined by the new constitution” followed by elections for a new parliament, he said.
“After a year of fumbling, it is time to agree on correcting the course,” he said.
Earlier this month, ElBaradei announced his withdrawal from the presidential race, saying he could not run because there is still no real democracy, in a blow to the ruling military.