Egypt protestors killed; army suspected


By Jane Buckle produced for online by Jessica Sier

Twenty Egyptians have reportedly been killed and more than 100 injured in Cairo over the weekend.

The deaths come as a result of protests against the banning of an Islamist candidate from this month’s presidential election.

Egypt’s transition to democracy is continuing to struggle, more than 12 months after previous president Mubarak resigned.

Salafist sheikh Hazem Abu Ismail was disqualified from standing in the presidential election on the grounds his mother had dual Egyptian and US citizenship.

The protests are a result of Ismail’s supporters railing against the law.

The protest began on Sunday as a sit-in, before unidentified assailants began attacking the demonstrators.

It is believed the attackers may be government-paid assailants.

Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies expert in Egyptian politics Dr Matthew Gray says the army is still pulling strings with the election.

“The army is not just powerful, it is central to the transition of politics in Egypt,” he said.

“The rules that are governing this transition have been made deliberately strict, to the point where this causes problems with the population.”

Dr Gray says it is difficult for Westerners to understand the different concept of democracy in Egypt.

The military will still play an important role in governing the country, even with the establishment of a democratic president.

“The military doesn’t have any intention of withdrawing from its behind-the-scenes power,” said Dr Grey.

He says protestors may be right in suspecting the army is paying thugs to attack them, as it was fundamentally the army’s movements that destabilised the previous Mubarak regime.

“You’ve either got some political actors paying people to attack the protestors or you’ve got former Mubarak regime elements attacking them.

“I wouldn’t want to speculate, but you’ve certainly got some sort of attempt here to disrupt the process,” said Dr Grey.

Amnesty Internationa Crisis Response Campaigner Michael Hayworth says the organisation is renewing its calls on the Egyptian authorities to ensure they are doing their utmost to protect civilians.

“Unfortunately the latest crisis it would seem the Egyptian military has come too late to the scene in order to protect protestors.

“We need the army to intervene to ensure people have the right to protest and can protest safely,” said Mr Hayworth.

In an effort to ease protesting the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in Egypt says it is ready to hand power to civilian rule on May 24 if a candidate won the first round of the election.

A run-off election is scheduled for late June.


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