At least 18 killed on Egypt’s uprising anniversary

Clashes between police and protesters on anniversary of struggle leave dozens hurt

Egyptian youths shout slogans at a protest in Cairo yesterday commemorating the anniversary of the 2011 uprising. Photograph: Mohamed Shokry Algarnoussi/EPA

Egyptian youths shout slogans at a protest in Cairo yesterday commemorating the anniversary of the 2011 uprising. Photograph: Mohamed Shokry Algarnoussi/EPA

 

At least 18 people, including three policemen, were killed and 38 injured when demonstrators clashed with police enforcing a ban on unauthorised protests on yesterday’s fourth anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

Three bombs targeted electricity pylons and railway tracks in the Nile Delta north of Cairo, and a bomb wounded two policemen in the capital.

Hundreds of mourners turned out for the funeral in Alexandria of Shaimaa el-Sabbagh (33), a labour rights activist and member of the Socialist Popular Alliance. She was shot by police while marching on Saturday to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to lay a wreath to honour 846 Egyptians killed during the 18-day uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

The alliance had supported both the ousting of Mr Mubarak and the 2013 removal of president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Anniversary celebrations were postponed due to a week’s mourning over the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who provided desperately needed financial aid and shipments of fuel to Egypt during 2013 and 2014. Before flying to Riyadh, Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi hailed the “martyrs” of the uprising in a televised address and told Egyptians: “To fulfil the demands of the revolution – bread, freedom, and social justice – there must be a revolution within us that will propel us forward in all fields.”

 

Return of authoritarianism

Revolutionaries fear a return to authoritarianism. The government created confusion and consternation by failing to honour pledges to release 200 students detained for protesting illegally on university campuses and to pardon 584 prisoners, including some protesters, who had served half their sentences.

 

George Ishaq, a member of Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights, said 600 names had been submitted for pardon but no names had been announced or timeframe revealed. Among the prisoners waiting to hear their fate were Irish national Ibrahim Halawa and his al-Jazeera journalist cell-mates, dual Australian-Latvian citizen Peter Gresta, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed.

Mr Halawa has been held for 17 months awaiting trial on charges of murder and attempted murder following an attack on a police station during an August 2013 march calling for Mr Morsi’s reinstatement. The journalists have been sentenced to seven to 10 years for broadcasting material favourable to the outlawed Brotherhood. The trial of Mr Halawa and another 493 defendants has been set for February 8th, although this date remains uncertain as proceedings have been postponed four times.

Other key political figures who could be pardoned include Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, leaders of the secular April 6th Youth Movement, vanguard of the uprising, who have served half their six-month sentences for protesting illegally.

 

Mubarak’s retrial

The release from prison last Friday of Mr Mubarak’s sons, Alaa and Gamal, who had served the maximum time in pre-trial detention, has led to optimism others could be freed. Mr Mubarak, still detained in a military hospital, and his sons are awaiting retrial on charges of embezzling state funds.