Over 20 political forces to join ‘Friday of Unity’ protest despite differences

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By Marwa Al-A’asar

CAIRO: Over 20 political forces, including Islamists, have announced their intention to join the planned Friday mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other parts of Egypt as disagreements over the goal of the demonstration persist.

The Coordination Committee of the Revolutionary Masses, which consists of several groups including the April 6 Youth Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, said all participating groups agreed on similar principles and demands.

The demands include faster trials for ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his family, former corrupt officials and the policemen accused of killing protesters during the January 25 uprising that toppled the regime.

Protesters will also call for an end to military trails for civilians, setting a timetable for presidential elections to hand over the country to a civilian authority and cleansing official institutions of the remnants of the now disbanded National Democratic Party.

In a statement on Wednesday, April 6 called on Egyptians, regardless of their affiliations, to reunite, join the Friday protest and ignore any differences.

The Brotherhood, however, said in another statement that the main goal of joining the demonstration is to reiterate its rejection to the “manifesto of supra-constitutional principles,” which was the reason for calling for the protest in the first place.

Mohamed Al-Beltagy, secretary-general of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), told DNE Thursday that the moderate speech adopted by all political powers indicates that there will be no clashes between protestors in Tahrir Square on Friday.

“The protest will call on SCAF to quickly fulfill the demands of the revolution, and not allow any side to coerce the public will as expressed in the referendum on constitutional amendments,” he said.

The FJP, according to Al-Beltagy, agrees with most political powers on the need to organize a mass demonstration that reflects the will of the Egyptian people, adding that the podiums will be open to everyone. He added that Islamist groups will head to the square carrying flowers.

“We did not call for a sit-in and it is up to the protesters whether or not to continue their ongoing sit-in,” he said.

A number of Islamist groups, including the ultra-conservative Salafis, had earlier called for holding a million-man march to Tahrir Square and other parts of Egypt dubbed “Friday of Identity and Stability” to protest against the “manifesto of supra-constitutional principles” and to promote the preservation of the Islamic identity of the state.

However, many feared that clashes may erupt between Islamist protesters and others in view of their differences over the proposed binding principles for the constitution that will be drafted following the November parliamentary elections. Brochures calling for a confrontation with protesters camped out in Tahrir were reportedly handed out.

Instead, most political groups joined forces, deciding to hold a protest a “Friday of Unity,” agreeing to call for similar demands, event thought they remained divided over the supra-constitutional manifesto.

In a statement, the MB said that those supporting the imposition of such principles are attempting to “circumvent the people’s will” which was decided by the results of the March 19 referendum on constitutional amendments.

“They further tried to impose their will on the Supreme Council (SCAF) of the Armed Forces to issue their manifesto through loud voices and media pressure,” the statement said.

The proposal was made by a number of political forces and leaders to be presented to the ruling SCAF as a binding, unchangeable list of constitutional principles.

The Brotherhood had previously said that some of those who held an open sit-in in Tahrir attempted recently to collide with the army by marching to SCAF headquarters until the Abbasiya district clashes erupted, describing the incident as “unfortunate”.

In the early hours of Saturday, SCAF had accused in its 69th statement April 6 of having foreign ties and driving a wedge between the people and the army.

Later in the afternoon, thousands were prevented by military police from moving towards the defense ministry, while men carrying knives and sticks attacked the demonstrators in Abbasiya resulting in the injury of over 300 protesters.

The official fact-finding committee investigating the incident announced on Tuesday that the assault was planned.

El-Gama’a El-Islamiya shares the Brotherhood view about the aim of Friday’s protest.

“We are planning to join the protest in Tahrir tomorrow…in order to combat any attempts to [manipulate] the people’s will and impose this proposal. Otherwise, we agree on all the other demands of the political forces,” said member of the group’s consultative council Tarek El-Zomor.

“We call on SCAF to respect the people’s will reinforced by the results of the referendum on constitutional amendments. Applying this manifesto is an offense to the people’s dignity,” El-Zomor told Daily News Egypt.

El-Zomor further said the group will hold an open sit-in in Tahrir to pressure SCAF and the government to respond to their requests.

On March 19, 77.2 percent of voters approved a referendum on constitutional amendments which charted a clear political path of holding legislative elections before drafting a new constitution. Those who voted no accused the Brotherhood and other Islamsit groups of exploiting religion to sway people towards a yes vote, arguably to hasten parliamentary elections that would benefit them at the polls.

Numerous political forces had called for drafting a new constitution ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections but other groups, including Islamists, rejected those calls.

Similarly, the Salafi Movement’s official spokesman Abdel-Moniem El-Shahat said in an interview with state TV Thursday morning that the Islamist movements preferred to call the planned demonstration the “Friday of the People’s Will” so as to stress respect for the results of the referendum and reject the manifesto.

Such discrepancies over the main target of the demonstration led the National Association for Change (NAC) to decide not to join.

“We had several meetings during which we tried to reach consensus … but they insist that whoever supported the manifesto or called for drafting a new constitution violates the people’s will,” NAC general coordinator Abdel-Geleel Moustafa told DNE.

“SCAF was the entity that violated the people’s will with its constitutional decree, imposing 54 articles without the approval of Egyptians or political forces,” he said.

The amendments have been the subject of major controversy since they were first proposed. Several political forces have been calling for drafting a new constitution prior to parliamentary and presidential elections, rejecting the modifications to the 1971 constitution.

On March 30, SCAF announced a 62-artcile constitutional decree that incorporated the 11 amendments of the referendum to be the base for drafting the constitution after the presidential and parliamentary polls are held.

Meanwhile, the Coalition of Movements Organizing the Roxy Square Protests, a group that denounces Tahrir protests and supports SCAF, announced in a statement Thursday that they will hold a parallel gathering in Heliopolis.

The coalition said they will demand the return of stability to the country, saying SCAF and the armed forces represent one entity.

Among their other demands are: allowing the caretaker government and SCAF the chance to do its job during this transitional stage, holding fair trials for the former icons of corruption and ending all sit-ins and protests nationwide. – Additional Reporting by Tamim Elyan.


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