Hundreds spend the night in Cairo's Tahrir Square

CAIRO, July 9, 2011 (AFP) - Hundreds of protesters spent the night in Cairo's Tahrir Square, an AFP reporter said on Saturday, after mass nationwide rallies to press the new military rulers to make good on promises of reform.

Dozens of tents were pitched in the square -- the focus of protests that ousted veteran president Hosni Mubarak in February -- and traffic was blocked around the usually busy plaza where music blasted from loudspeakers.

Pro-democracy activists who had handled security at Friday's mass rally, were still guarding the entrances to the square, searching anyone walking in.

Among the key demands raised at Friday's protests were an end to military trials of civilians, the dismissal and prosecution of police officers accused of killing protesters, and thorough and transparent trials for former regime officials.

Activists have repeatedly denounced the handling of legal proceedings against security forces who used violence in the uprising that killed 846 civilians.

"We need to change the ministry of interior and the police. Police must respect everybody in this country," said Mohammed Karim, a law student at Cairo's Al-Azhar University.

Mussa Assem, another protester who spent the night in Tahrir, echoed a key demand of the activists which is to remove former regime officials from senior positions in state institutions.

"Five months after the revolution, we still have to continue the movement," he told AFP.

"We want the removal of former regime people who are still in charge in the media," he said.

Tens of thousands had taken to the streets across Egypt on Friday to defend the uprising, directing their anger at the army which took power when the strongman stepped down.

The day passed without major incident as the protesters listened to speeches and songs through loudspeakers at the well-stewarded rally in Tahrir Square. Security forces maintained a discreet presence nearby.

Thousands of protesters also came out in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the canal cities of Suez and Ismailiya.

Hundreds protested outside a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where Mubarak is detained on charges of fraud and ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising.

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