Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Egypt and protests

Protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo (15 July 2011) Egypt has seen a new wave of popular protests in recent times. Scheduled programmes were interrupted to show former Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi and the former head of state TV, Usamah al-Sheikh, in court.
Meanwhile, PM Essam Sharaf was taken to hospital for low blood pressure, although he is now said to be stable.
Mr Sharaf is in the middle of a cabinet reshuffle demanded by protesters.
His new ministers had been due to be sworn in on Monday, but the event was postponed.
'Opaque' process
The move to broadcast the former officials' trials live follows pressure from the opposition for greater transparency in the post-revolution justice process.
Mr Fiqi and Mr Sheikh are accused of losing Egypt at least $2m (£1.3m) of revenue by corruptly giving away the right to broadcast the Egyptian football league by satellite.
The court said Mr Fiqi, who denied the charges, had done this in his "personal interests as part of an attempt to impose his control and media policies on these stations".
Former President Hosni Mubarak is due in court next month but reports say he is seriously ill.
Other trials of members of the former regime have already taken place.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif received a one-year suspended jail term, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly was given five years and former Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali was sentenced in absentia to 10 years, all on corruption charges.
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (file image)
But the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says the process has until now been opaque, with few members of the public admitted and verdicts emerging from closed door hearings.
The broadcast meets some of the demands of the opposition and the protesters who have once more gathered in the capital's Tahrir Square, the scene of the mass demonstrations earlier this year.
Our correspondent says the live broadcast also appears to set a precedent for Mr Mubarak's trial on charges of corruption and abuse of power, which is due to start on 3 August.
Over the weekend, Mr Mubarak's doctors denied that his health had significantly deteriorated, following comments from the former leader's lawyer that he had suffered a stroke and was in a coma.
He has been receiving treatment in a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh since he was forced out of office in February.
A new cabinet was due to be sworn in on Monday, after the new wave of protests forced Mr Sharaf to carry out a reshuffle.
But the new line-up has been greeted with anger by protesters, who said it did not go far enough in removing officials associated with the previous regime.
Meanwhile, Mr Sharaf was taken to Dar al-Fouad hospital in Cairo after suffering a fall in blood pressure, and underwent medical tests, Reuters cited state Mena news agency as saying.

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