Egypt purges security forces as new Tahrir Square occupation gains momentum

Egypt’s ruling military council announced the early retirement of more than 600 senior police officers on July 13, in a bid to appease demonstrators who have for the past six days held a new thousands-strong protest encampment in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The Interior Ministry said 18 police generals and 9 other senior officers were forced into early retirement because they were accused of killing protesters during the 18-day uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February. Additionally, 54 lower-ranking officers implicated in repression during the uprising were shifted to jobs where they would no longer interact with civilians, officials said. Mansour el-Essawy, the interior minister appointed after Mubarak’s ouster, called the moves “the biggest shake-up in the history of the police,” citing popular demands “to get rid of all of the leadership that is accused of killing protesters.” The new Tahrir Square occupation, led by families that lost loved ones in the repression, has adopted the slogan, “The revolution goes on!”

In another concession to the protesters, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces postponed parliamentary elections, which had been scheduled for September, until October or November. Many new political parties have demanded a delay in order to prepare for the elections and compete against the Muslim Brotherhood, long the most organized opposition force.

In addition to occupying Cairo’s Tahrir Square, protesters have also repeatedly held human blockades to prevent employees from entering the Mugamma, the huge government complex housing Egypt’s bureaucracy. Hundreds of protesters are also holding public encampments in Alexandria’s Qayed Ibrahim Square and al-Arbaeen Square in Suez. Among ptheir demands are an end to military trials of civilians, the dismissal and prosecution of police officers accused of murder and torture , and open trials of former regime officials. (NYT, RIA-Novosti, July 13; Middle East Online, July 11)

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