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Egyptian masses against the military council

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 March.

The ruling military council in Egypt has come under renewed pressure from intensified mass demonstrations calling for all power immediately to be vested in parliament following incidents at a football match in Port Said at the beginning of February.

In Egypt, football supporters clubs, known as the ‘ultras’, have been an important factor in the anti-government protests that brought down the Mubarak regime. They are known for their anti-government chants and formation marching. It is thought that at the Port Said match the police and military deliberately failed to implement routine weapons searches and subsequently stood aside to allow thugs posing as Port Said supporters to attack ultras in the crowd who had travelled from Cairo for the match. Seventy-one people were killed.

Meanwhile, the military government has ordered the arrest of no fewer than 19 persons working for foreign NGOs said to be carrying out illegal activity in Egypt, namely, conducting research with a view to sending information to the US and supporting candidates in Egyptian elections whose function would be to represent foreign interests. Eleven of those to be arrested are US citizens.

Personnel from 44 NGOs have been targeted, including the National Democratic Institution, Freedom House, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and others who were raided by the authorities in late December. In fact, according to the New York Times, “American pro-democracy groups were founded in the 1980s in part to take the place of what had been decades of covert Central Intelligence Agency involvement in the political affairs of other countries.” (‘Charges against US-aided groups come with history of distrust in Egypt’ by Scott Shane and Ron Nixon, 6 February 2012)

None of the US citizens concerned were actually taken into custody but several were holed up in the US embassy in the expectation that they would be arrested if they stepped outside. Meanwhile, as a result of the threatened arrests, the US was having to contemplate whether to suspend its military aid to Egypt, which amounts to $1.3bn annually – but if it did that it would have no hold over the country to force it to maintain its de facto truce with Israel.

However, this embarrassing impasse has now been avoided by an Egyptian court releasing 11 US citizens on bail (totalling $4m), thus enabling them to skip the country, which they have done. It is not thought that the US government will be amenable to any request for extradition for the persons concerned to face trial.

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