Egypt’s Protests Continue, Despite Concessions

Posted November 23rd, 2011 at 12:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Egyptian protesters are pressing their demand for the country's military rulers to step down immediately, a day after Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi announced concessions designed to ease discontent.

Demonstrators are in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a fifth day and fresh clashes are reported. At least 35 people have been killed during the past five days in clashes between security forces and protesters in Cairo and other main cities.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is urging Egyptian authorities to end what she called “clearly excessive force against protesters.” In a Wednesday statement, she called images of the “brutal beatings” of “subdued protesters” “deeply shocking.”

On Tuesday, Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, pledged to speed the transition to civilian rule with a presidential election before July 2012.

Tantawi suggested he would be willing to consider holding a referendum on whether military rule should end earlier.

He also said he had accepted the resignation of the civilian Cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf but that it will remain in place until a new government is formed.

But tens of thousands of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square rejected the steps as insufficient. They want the military to relinquish power now.

Parliamentary elections are set to begin on Monday and Tantawi pledged the polls would go forward as planned. But many opposition leaders believe that to be increasingly doubtful.

In another apparent concession to demonstrators, the military council earlier issued a law that bans anyone convicted of corruption from running for office or holding a government position. The move could restrict members of ex-president Hosni Mubarak's former ruling party from competing in the upcoming elections.

Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Egypt's rulers of brutality sometimes exceeding that of Mr. Mubarak.