Last Updated: Sat Feb 26, 2011 12:13 pm (KSA) 09:13 am (GMT)

Egypt army apologizes for beating Tahrir protesters

Thousands gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to celebrate two weeks since Mubarak's removal
Thousands gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to celebrate two weeks since Mubarak's removal

Egypt's ruling military council apologized on Saturday after military police beat protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, but activists called for fresh protests to denounce violence by the authorities.

A security official and witnesses said that shortly after midnight, military police surrounded protesters, beating them with batons and using tasers to disperse the crowd of several hundred that had gathered to push for reforms.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said that "what happened late Friday was the result of unintentional confrontations between the military police and the youth of the revolution."

It stressed that it "did not and will not issue orders to attack the youth, and all measures will be taken to ensure this will not happen again."

But activists launched a Facebook call for fresh protests on Saturday to denounce the army's use of force.

"Peaceful protesters in Tahrir are being chased away by the military police with tasers, sticks and whips. Masked men with machine guns trying to shut down the strike by force. Many beaten, assaulted and arrested," the statement said.

"We cannot stand for this; we must stand strong against violence towards peaceful protesters."

On Friday, thousands of Egyptians rallied in the square -- the focal point of anti-government protests that toppled president Hosni Mubarak -- to celebrate the success of their revolution and call for a new government purged of old guard remnants.

They demanded the replacement of the government of Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq. Even after a reshuffle on Wednesday, a number of key portfolios, including foreign affairs and defense, are still in the hands of Mubarak regime veterans.

"Shafiq's government is subservient to the corrupt regime," read one banner carried by demonstrators.

Protesters also called for the abolition of the much feared state security services.

Mubarak, who resigned on February 11, handed power to the army.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ordered Shafiq's government to run the country's affairs for six months "or until the end of parliamentary and presidential elections."

It has vowed to uphold the principles of the uprising and fight the corruption that tainted Mubarak's regime.

Former officials detained

In one attempt to appease protesters and show a break with the past, several former ministers and business executives linked to Mubarak's ruling party have come under investigation.

Egypt's public prosecutor referred two former ministers and several prominent businessmen to a criminal court on Thursday on accusations of squandering public funds.

In the latest case, investigators have ordered the detention of former Information Minister Anas el-Fekky for 15 days on charges of profiteering and wasting public funds, the state news agency MENA said on Saturday.

Investigators also ordered the head of the Egyptian Television and Broadcasting Union be detained.

Anti-government protesters had been angered by Fekky because state media, which fell under his charge, had ignored, played down or attacked demonstrations that ousted Mubarak.

Egypt's prosecutor said in its charges against Fekky that he had allocated state television funding to back presidential and parliamentary campaigns for Mubarak and his National Democratic Party, in violation of election laws.

The prosecutor also said Fekky had used excess funding in revamping studios and for channels owned by state television.

The former minister denied the charges, MENA reported, saying that he saw no excess in allocating budgets and that he had made such decisions to maintain competitiveness with other, private channels.

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