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Egyptians Mark First Anniversary of Uprising

January 25, 2012

Elizabeth Arrott

Tens of thousands of Egyptians have gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to mark one year since the start of an uprising that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak.

Many of those who attended Wednesday's rally called it a celebration of the downfall of an autocratic leadership, but others said they want a new revolution against the military rulers who took over when Mubarak was ousted.

Officials of Egypt's main Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, were among those cheering in the Cairo square. The party has been one of the main beneficiaries of last year's revolution, winning the largest share of parliamentary seats in free elections organized in recent months by Egypt's ruling military council.

The Brotherhood was officially banned during Mubarak's near 30-year rule, but its popular social services for the poor helped it to become the country's best-organized political movement. The Islamists have rejected calls for a new uprising against the military.

Liberal youth groups who led the 2011 revolt had a different message, chanting "down with military rule" as they marched to Tahrir Square. They accuse the military council of behaving like the Mubarak government by violently suppressing pro-democracy protests and trying civilians in military courts.

Egypt's military rulers have promised to hand over power after holding a presidential election by June. The military council led by Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi has made several apparent concessions to reformists in recent days.

It has pardoned about 2,000 prisoners and promised to partially lift the country's 30-year-long state of emergency beginning Wednesday. But, the ruling military said authorities will continue to apply the widely-disliked law in fighting acts of "thuggery." It did not elaborate.

New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch says the exception to the lifting of the law is an "invitation to continued abuse" and an "insult" to Egyptians calling for a return to the rule of law. It says Egypt's military rulers frequently have described "peaceful" demonstrators as "thugs" and put them on trial in military courts for the offense.

Tahrir Square was a focal point for the anti-Mubarak activists who began a series of mass protests for political and economic reforms on January 25, 2011. The activists continued protesting in central Cairo for 18 days, defying a deadly police crackdown until Mubarak ceded control of the government to the military council.

Mubarak is on trial for a variety of charges of corruption and involvement in the deaths of hundreds of anti-government protesters during the uprising. He has pleaded not guilty, and could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.

The former leader's two sons are also on trial, along with Egypt's former interior minister and senior police officers.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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