By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: At least three people were killed in fresh violence in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Sunday when police backed by the army charged protesters to disperse a demonstration against military rule, sources from the Health Ministry told the media.
A Reuters cameraman had seen a body of one man, identified by activists as Shehab El-Din El-Dakroubi, 28, in a makeshift clinic next to Tahrir Square.
The cause of Dakroubi’s death was not immediately clear nor was it clear if he was one of the two cited by the sources.
Two people had been killed in earlier violence that began on Saturday in Cairo and Alexandria, according to state media citing the Health Ministry.
By 6 pm, protesters had taken over the square, as police retreated and army vehicles circled the area.
On Sunday morning, military police brutally attacked a small number of peaceful protesters with batons with rubber bullets, birdshot and tear gas bombs.
“Military police brutally attacked us without any provocation on our part, brutally beating us with sticks and driving us out of the square,” Ingi Hamdy, a leading member of the April 6 Youth Movement told Daily News Egypt.
Earlier in the day, clashes continued in Mohamed Mahmoud street in front of the American University in Cairo (AUC) between riot police and a few thousand protesters.
Protesters pushed back and retreated in the face of tear gas bombs and rubber bullets, chanting “the people want to fall of the field Marshal,” referring to the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) Husssein Tantawi.
Rocks were thrown from both sides and some of the protesters threw Molotov cocktails in the face of successive tear gas bombs.
Demonstrators said that clashes with riot police had been ongoing since Saturday night, when riot police retreated towards the interior ministry after failing to take over the Square.
Most of the protesters had flocked to the square when they heard of the violent crackdown on the small number of protesters who decided to hold a sit-in Tahrir Square after Friday mass protest.
“We didn’t have the revolution so we could be beaten by police again, we want freedom and democracy,” said Fayza, 20.
Around 300 protesters held a sit-in in the square after mass protests on the Friday dubbed “Protecting Democracy,” calling on the military council to hand over power to a civilian authority.
Some protesters said they would continue their sit-in until SCAF announced that it relinquish authority no later than April 2012, while others demanded that SCAF hand over power now.
“SCAF can’t continue to rule if it allows such a brutal crackdown by police,” said Ahmed Saeid, 28.
“We need to have a presidential council to rule us now after what happened yesterday.”
Some suggested that the current presidential hopefuls unite to form a presidential council during the transitional period.
Some protesters said they didn’t have any specific demands, adding that they will leave the square once riot police leave the area and the situation is calm and safe.
“I really don’t understand where the country is heading, but I know this path we’re moving on now is not the right one,” said Ihab El-Sewisy, 27.
The protesters slammed political powers, saying that they “deserted” the people in Tahrir, to focus on the elections.
“All these parties want is a piece of the cake, but we are the people and we will protect our revolution,” said Sayed, 26.
Presidential hopeful Selim El-Awa and Mamdouh Hamza, general secretary of the National Council, were booed out of the Square on Saturday when they tried to convince protesters to leave to allow the regular flow of traffic through Tahrir.
There were conflicting reports regarding presidential hopeful Hazem Salah Abou Islamail’s visit to Tahrir also on Saturday night.
Some protesters maintained that he called on them to continue the sit-in, while some said that he was also booed out of square.
The April 6 Youth Movement decided on Saturday to join the protesters in their confrontation against riot police.
“We are here to protect the martyrs’ families and the injured who decided to hold a peaceful sit-in in the square and we won’t leave until they leave,” said member of the movement Sayed Abdel Rahman.
The families of the martyrs who were killed during the 18-day revolt that toppled Mubarak and the injured said that they will not leave until they were compensated by the government as promised through a LE 100 million fund created especially for that purpose.
“The martyrs’ families haven’t been given any pensions or compensation for the death of their children until now,” said Ibrahim Taha, brother of martyr Mostafa.
Ahmed Morsi, 31, who was injured in the leg during the uprising voiced the same complaint saying that he was denied compensation for his injury.
“I’ve been sacked from my job as a worker in a shoe factory after my injury and I have no income now,” he said.
Morsi and Taha also believed that SCAF must hand over power by April 2012.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and General Mohsen El-Fangary, member of the ruling military council and also deputy head of the martyrs’ fund, held a meeting on Sunday to discuss progress in handing out compensation.
A statement said that compensations had been given to 3,152 out of 3525 injured.
A total of LE 15,000 was given to those with permanent disabilities and LE 5,000 to those suffering milder injuries.
The statement added that 875 were transferred to military and government hospital for treatment, while 418 others were offered medical help.
The statement also said that LE 30,000 in compensation was given to 644 martyrs’ families, in addition to a monthly salary of around LE 1,700
Cabinet also issued a statement saying that legislative elections slated to begin on Nov. 28 will not be postponed.-Additional reporting by Mostafa Sheshtawy