Egypt Purges Hundreds of Police Officers as Protests Grow

Posted July 13th, 2011 at 6:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Egypt has announced the dismissals of more than 600 senior police officers in a bid to meet the demands of thousands of protesters urging swifter justice for those involved in crimes under former president Hosni Mubarak.

Interior Ministry officials said Wednesday that nearly 500 police generals and about 150 other senior officers would end their service.

They said none of the 18 generals and nine officers accused of killing protesters during the anti-government uprising that led to Mr. Mubarak's February resignation remained in their positions.

The announcements came after activists began staging protests across the country on Friday, including many who have continued their sit-in in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Demonstrators say the dismissals are not sufficient because what's needed is a total restructuring of the police force – the main tool of political control under the Mubarak government.

Activists have been urging the government to speed up the pace of reforms with actions that include purging and prosecuting police officers and government officials from the Mubarak era. They have vowed to stay on the streets until their demands are met.

More than 840 people were killed in three weeks of non-violent demonstrations early this year.

Separately, the interim government announced a delay of up to two months in parliamentary elections that were scheduled for September. The delay is a bid to meet the demands of secular and liberal activists who say they need more time to prepare candidates.

Egypt's military-appointed Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has offered several concessions to the protesters in recent days. Tuesday, he accepted the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Yahya el-Gamal, after reformists said he should be removed.

He also pledged Monday to reshuffle his Cabinet within a week.

In a separate development Wednesday, a media watchdog group criticized Egypt's reinstatement of its information ministry, saying the move is a “setback for media freedom” in the country.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement that the ministry is not suitable for reforming Egypt's media industry because of its history as an arm of former President Mubarak's government.

The information ministry was seen as a propaganda tool for Mr. Mubarak, and was abolished shortly after he stepped down in February.