Egypt's government forbids more protests

Egypt said today it would ban demonstrations and detain protesters, seeking to draw a line under unprecedented protests against President Hosni Mubarak's rule.

Activists called on Egyptians to take to the streets again today to end Mubarak's 30-year rule after a "Day of Wrath" of anti-government protests across Egypt in which three protesters and one policeman were killed.

Police fired teargas and water cannon in the early hours of today to disperse protesters who occupied the capital's central Tahrir Square into the night.

By daybreak, calm had returned to Cairo and other cities, and police were deployed in large numbers around the square.

As cleaners swept the last stones and debris from Cairo's streets, the state newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm arrived at newsstands bearing a stark red front-page headline: "Warning".

"No provocative movements or protest gatherings or organisation of marches or demonstrations will be allowed, and immediate legal procedures will be taken and participants will be handed over to investigating authorities," the state news agency MENA cited the Interior Ministry as saying.

Some 20,000 demonstrators, complaining of poverty, unemployment, corruption and repression and inspired by this month's downfall of the president of Tunisia, had turned out in cities across Egypt on yesterday to demand that Mubarak step down.

"To any free and honest citizen with a conscience who fears for his country, to anyone who saw yesterday's violence against protesters, we ask you to pronounce a general strike across Egypt today and tomorrow," one activist wrote on a Facebook site that has been used as a tool to marshal protests.

One opposition group, the Sixth of April Youth, called on its Facebook page for protests to continue today "and after tomorrow, until Mubarak goes".

A set of political demands were posted on Facebook and passed around Tahrir Square on slips of paper before police moved in.

They included the resignation of Mubarak and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, the dissolution of parliament and the formation of a national unity government. A labour union activist repeated the demands to the crowd in the square by megaphone.

Egypt's population of 80 million is growing by 2 percent a year. About 60 percent of the population - and 90 percent of the unemployed - are under 30 years old.

About 40 percent live on less than $2 a day, and a third are illiterate.

Washington, a close ally of Egypt and a major donor, called for restraint. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Mubarak's government was stable and seeking ways to meet Egyptians' needs.

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said: "I think one must be able to demonstrate without there being violence and, much less, deaths," adding that protesters had "an aspiration for more freedom".

Yesterday's protesters had chanted "Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak" and torn up pictures of the president and his son, Gamal, who many Egyptians believe is being groomed for future office, though both father and son have denied any such plan.

"Change must happen. It must," said a butcher in central Cairo who asked to be identified simply as "an Egyptian".

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Britain and the United States, told Reuters Insider Television the future of Mubarak's government depended on its ability to understand the reasons for the protests.

"Whether they can catch up as leaders to what the population is aiming (for) is still to be seen," he said.

Twitter, the Internet messaging service that has been one of the main methods used by demonstrators to organise, said it had been blocked in Egypt.

"The difference is great between freedom of expression and chaos," Safwat el-Sherif, secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party, told the state newspaper al-Akhbar.

A government source said ministers had been told to ensure staff returned to work today and did not join protests.

But the activists on the Web appeared determined to keep up their momentum.

"Tomorrow, don't go to work. Don't go to college. We will all go down to the streets and stand hand in hand for you our Egypt. We will be millions," wrote one on Facebook.

The Internet has been the main platform for some of the most vociferous criticism of Mubarak.

The complaints echo those of fellow Arabs in Tunisia: soaring food prices, a lack of jobs and authoritarian rule that usually crushes protests swiftly and with a heavy hand.

Yesterday's coordinated anti-government protests were unlike anything witnessed in Egypt since Mubarak came to power in 1981 after president Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamists.

The Interior Ministry blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for yesterday's violence, although the banned Islamist opposition group has only played a small part in protests and has even angered its own youth members by not being active enough.

"The Interior Ministry blamed the protest on us to give itself an excuse ... for using force to disperse the people to make it appear it is not hitting the Egyptian people but the Brotherhood," Brotherhood member Essam el-Erian told Reuters.

Analysts say protests in Tunisia and developments across the region have given the lie to the claims of many Arab autocrats that they are bulwarks against Islamist radicals sweeping to power.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat