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Egypt celebrates a year of freedom

Tens of thousands of Egyptians have gathered to mark the first anniversary of the country's 2011 uprising, with liberals and Islamists on different sides of Cairo's Tahrir Square in a reflection of the deep political divides.

Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and their liberal and secular rivals differ over the goals of the revolution and the strategy to achieve them, in particular the relationship with the country's interim military leaders.

Military generals led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi took over from president Hosni Mubarak when he stepped down on February 11, 2011. The ousted president is now on trial for his life on charges of complicity in the killing of hundreds of protesters during the uprising.

Volunteers from the Brotherhood, a fundamentalist group that won just under half of parliament's seats in recent elections, were checking IDs and conducting searches of the thousands flocking to join the protests.

Other Brotherhood followers formed a human chain around a large podium set up overnight by the group. The Brotherhood loyalists were chanting religious songs and shouting, "Allahu Akbar," or God is great.

In contrast, liberals on the other side of the square were chanting, "Down, down with military rule," and demanding that Tantawi, Mubarak's defence minister for nearly 20 years, be executed.

"Tantawi, come and kill more revolutionaries, we want your execution," they chanted, alluding to the more than 80 protesters killed by army troops since October. Thousands of civilians, many of them protesters, have been hauled before military tribunals for trial since Mubarak's removal.

"We are not here to celebrate. We are here to bring down military rule. They have failed the revolution and met none of its goals," said Iman Fahmy, a 27-year- old pharmacist who wore a paper eye-patch in solidarity with protesters shot in the eye by security forces during recent protests.

Fahmy was among several thousand protesters led by pro-reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei who were marching toward Tahrir Square from a neighbourhood on the west bank of the river Nile. Several other marches were proceeding toward Tahrir, raising the possibility of a massive turnout at the square.

There were no army troops or police in Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 18-day, anti-Mubarak uprising that began on January 25, 2011. Liberal and left-leaning groups behind Mr Mubarak's removal say that, except for putting him on trial, the generals have left the old regime largely in place. They say that the Brotherhood has tacitly accepted this, concentrating its efforts on winning parliamentary seats rather than working for the realisation of the uprising's goals - social justice, democracy and freedom.


From Belfast Telegraph