Protest leaders in Cairo suspend Tahrir Square sit-in
By Leila Fadel,
CAIRO — Protest leaders in Cairo said Sunday that they have decided to suspend the Tahrir Square sit-in during the holy month of Ramadan, when many Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.
For more than three weeks, activists have endured punishing temperatures to denounce the interim military leadership, demanding that it prosecute former president Hosni Mubarak and other officials and decrying military trials that have been used to convict thousands of civilians.
The protests have increased tensions between the military leadership and those critical of its governing, including civil society organizations, activists and political parties. In one instance, those tensions flared when supporters of the armed forces attacked thousands of demonstrators walking to the Defense Ministry, leaving at least 150 people injured.
The decision to leave the square comes three days before Mubarak and 10 other defendants are scheduled to go on trial at the police academy in Cairo. They are accused of graft and of ordering the killing of protesters during the 18-day winter uprising in Cairo that led to Mubarak’s resignation. By Sunday night, the square was emptying, but not all protesters were prepared to leave.
Judge Ahmed Rifaat, who is trying the case, promised Sunday that the proceedings would be speedy. Rifaat told reporters that the trial, which begins Wednesday, will be broadcast on state television and that 600 people will be allowed to attend.
Twenty-six political parties and movements, including the April 6 youth movement, released a joint statement saying they had agreed to suspend the sit-in during Ramadan but would continue to push for concessions from the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The statement noted that some demands, such as broadcasting the trials of Mubarak-era officials, have been met but that others have not.
“We’ve suspended our sit-in in Tahrir Square and other squares around Egypt temporarily until further notice,” said a member of the April 6 youth movement, reading from the statement.
The military has accused the April 6 movement of taking foreign money and trying to destabilize the nation. The group denies those accusations.
When Ramadan ends, protesters could return to the square, said Mohammed Adel, a movement spokesman.
Some activists have become concerned that the protests were losing support. Many Egyptians want the country to return to normalcy as it prepares for elections planned for late November.
Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council and a longtime defense minister under Mubarak, recently promised that the nation would transition to a democratic state through free and fair elections.