Egypt orders Mubarak be moved to prison hospital, divide former regime detainees

Egyptian activists have accused the ruling military council of giving special treatment to the former President Hosni Mubarak. (Reuters)

Egypt’s interior minister has ordered the transfer of former President Hosni Mubarak to Cairo’s Tora prison hospital and asked that other detained former regime figures be divided and put in five different prisons in a bid to limit contact between them.

There have been claims by various revolution groups that former regime figures were behind the wave of unrest that has rocked the country in past several months.

Mubarak has been held in a military hospital pending his trial and his transfer to Tora prison would be a concession to protesters who have complained that Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years, has been given special treatment by the military council, which took over when he was pushed out in February last year.

The army had no immediate comment on the report and officials at the Interior Ministry could not immediately be reached.

The move by interior minister came as clashes continued between protesters and riot police in Cairo on Sunday.

The army had no immediate comment on the report and officials at the Interior Ministry could not immediately be reached.

The move by interior minister came as clashes continued between protesters and riot police in Cairo on Sunday.

undreds of riot police blocked off roads leading to the interior ministry headquarters in the center of the capital, firing tear gas to keep dozens of rock throwing protesters at bay.

Police erected a concrete block wall on Mansur street, which has become the nerve center of the deadly clashes, while entrenching themselves behind coils of barbed wire on other roads.

Protesters lobbing stones and petrol bombs at the police lines cheered when their comrades brought back a captured man they said was a plainclothes officer. Others tried to shield him from the protesters’ kicks and punches.

The protesters denied they intended to storm the ministry, several hundred meters (yards) from Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak a year ago but left the military in charge.

“My heart burned at what happened in Port Said, and we all know that the police are responsible,” said one of the protesters, a high school student who gave his name as Ahmed Farag.

“We don’t want to storm the ministry. We are protesting here because this is the police headquarters.”

Meanwhile a government building near the interior ministry was set ablaze with the state news agency blaming “unknown” arsonists.

The health ministry on Saturday said 12 people have been killed in Cairo and the town of Suez since the violence erupted on Thursday in response to the failure of authorities to contain clashes at a football match in the northern city of Port Said that left 74 people dead.

Marchers took to the streets nationwide Friday to demand Egypt’s ruling generals cede power immediately, amid charges the military was deliberately sowing chaos to justify its status at the top of the political ladder.

Many of the dead in the football riot in Port Said were thought to have been Ultras -- supporters of Cairo’s main club Al-Ahly -- set upon by partisans of the local Al-Masry side after the Cairo team lost 3-1.

The Ultras played a prominent role in the uprising that overthrew Mubarak, and commentators have fed speculation that pro-Mubarak forces were behind the massacre, or at least complicit in it.

The military has pledged to cede full powers to civilian rule when a president is elected by the end of June, but its opponents believe it intends to hold on to power behind the scenes after a transfer to civilian rule.

Plea to bring forward elections

Responding to one of Egypt’s bloodiest weeks since Mubarak was toppled, the council said the country was going through “the most important and dangerous period” in its history.

A civilian council set up to advise the generals recommended on Saturday they bring forward preparations for presidential elections, a view echoed by a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest party in parliament.

“In view of the seriousness of the events, the carnage that happened, we cannot be silent, we cannot wait,” said Mona Makram Ebeid, a council member. “It’s a revolutionary plea.”

“The advisory council will consider halting its meetings if the military council does not respond,” Sherif Zahran, another member of the body, told Reuters.

Formal nominations for the presidency should be accepted starting Feb. 23, according to the recommendation, nearly two months sooner than the April 15 date previously announced.

That could lead to an election as soon as April or May. The existing timetable states the generals will hand power to a president by the end of June. Officials had indicated the election would happen just before then.

Essam el-Erian, the deputy head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told Reuters the presidential election could be held in May, shaving a month off the interim period.

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