Egyptian protesters call for Mubarak trial

CAIRO, April 8, 2011 (AFP) - Egyptian activists plan to march onto Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square on Friday to demand former regime officials be purged and put on trial, including ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Thousands are expected to gather after weekly Muslim prayers in a protest dubbed the "Day of Trial and Cleansing" to pressure the ruling military council to deliver on promised reforms and bring to justice former regime members.

Protests have been held regularly since Mubarak was toppled on February 11 but the numbers are expected to swell this week after the Muslim Brotherhood -- the largest and most organised opposition movement -- said it would join Friday's rally.

The key demand is for Mubarak and his family to be put on trial, organisers said on their Facebook page.

In the run-up to the protest, several men who describe themselves as former army officers publicly challenged the democratic aspirations of the ruling military council and called for its members to step down.

In a series of defiant videos widely circulated on YouTube, the men who say they are speaking on behalf of many members the armed forces accuse the military council of thwarting the goals of the revolution.

One of them, Hatem Abbadi, accused the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of staging a counter-revolution led by its head, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, who served as Mubarak's defence minister for two decades.

Another, Sharif Othman, who says he is a former air force officer, accused Tantawi of corruption and said officers would be joining Friday's protest in uniform to demand the "cleansing" of the military establishment.

Critics however have slammed the public messages, saying they would sow discord between the army and the people during a fragile transitional phase.

The military council has warned any civilian wearing a military uniform at the protest will face a military trial, the state-owned Al-Ahram reported on Friday.

Tahrir Square was the centre of massive nationwide protests that erupted on January 25 and lead to the overthrow of Mubarak, who handed power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Several former ministers and members of Mubarak's National Democratic Party are being investigated as part of a sweeping probe into corruption, but pro-democracy activists say key figures still need to be brought to justice.

On Thursday, Mubarak's chief of staff Zakariah Azmi was detained for 15 days on suspicion of illegally acquiring his wealth.

Azmi, one of the former president's closest aides, is under investigation by an anti-corruption panel that has also summoned Mubarak's younger son Gamal for questioning.

Gamal is expected to appear before the panel next week.

Mubarak, his wife Suzanne and his two sons Alaa and Gamal and their wives have already been banned from travel and had their assets ordered frozen.

Several of his ministers as well as some businessmen close to the regime were arrested and banned from leaving Egypt after having their funds frozen.

The first member of Mubarak's regime to be put on trial was the much reviled former interior minister Habib al-Adly, whose security forces were given wide powers of arrest under the emergency law.

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