Egypt Update

Apr 11, 2011



Next door in Egypt, former President Hosni Mubarak may be out of power but is back on the airwaves. In an audiotape broadcast by an Arab satellite channel, Mubarak said he and his family were hurt by allegations of corruption, which he insists are false.

Egypt's public prosecutor doesn't seem impressed - he issued a summons yesterday for Mubarak and his two sons to face an anti-corruption panel. That move came amid new tensions between the protest movement in Egypt and the military counsel that succeeded Mubarak.

NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Cairo.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

DEBORAH AMOS: Tahrir Square is a battleground again for the future of a revolution that ousted a president and now wants him tried. A few thousand protestors barricaded behind barbed wire here say they'll keep up the pressure, defying an army order to leave.

But while Cairo focused on the confrontation here, an Egyptian prosecutor issued an unprecedented legal summons. He called for the former president and his family to face an anti-corruption probe.

Hisham Kassim, a 20-year veteran of Egypt's political opposition, says he never imagined this happening - Mubarak under house arrest with a prosecutor demanding answers.

Mr. HISHAM KASSIM: Unless Mubarak can really establish that he is physically incapable of coming to Cairo and facing the prosecutor, they will bring him. Okay?

AMOS: And the minister of justice issued a public warning to Mubarak's son Gamal, says Kassim.

Mr. KASSIM: If Gamal fails to show up on the summons that has been made for him, that constitutes a second crime.

AMOS: So you think this is the beginning of the investigation of the Mubarak family?

Mr. KASSIM: Definitely, yes.

Former President HOSNI MUBARAK (Egypt): (Foreign language spoken)

AMOS: The former president stepped back into the public for the first time since he stepped down in a recorded statement on a satellite channel supported by Saudi Arabia. Mubarak pledged to clear his reputation. He vowed to sue those who'd smeared his name, and he gave the public prosecutor permission to contact governments around the world to prove he had no assets abroad.

His statements are not likely to satisfy Egyptians. The prosecutor's summons is just a start, says Dr. Mahmoud Shafy, a physician and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. That's why he joined the mass protest on Friday.

Dr. MAHMOUD SHAFY (Physician): We'll wait and see. That's all.

AMOS: So being question is one thing, being charged is something else.

Mr. SHAFY: Yes, of course. That is why you have to wait.

AMOS: As Egyptians wait, tension over the strategy to force political reform has caused a generation gap within the opposition.

Mr. KASSIM: Frankly, I really disapprove of what a lot of the protestors are doing right now.

AMOS: Hisham Kassim says that a small group of protestors who are now camped out on Tahrir Square provokes the military and endangers the revolution's gains.

Mr. KASSIM: I really don't get the rationale of two, three thousand people thinking that they understand the situation more than the rest of the country and that they are representative and insist on my way or the highway.

AMOS: On Saturday at dawn, two people died and more than 15 were injured when the military tried to sweep the small encampment. The Revolutionary Youth Council condemned the violence but they stopped short of directly condemning the military, says councilmember Sally More(ph).

Ms. SALLY MOORE (Revolutionary Youth Council): 'Cause it is the only one institution that is holding together so far. So of course nobody wants to topple that. And of course we are, yeah, we're walking on eggshells. That's the problem now.

AMOS: It is the problem for a youth-led revolution that handed power to Egypt's military council and must depend on the military to hold the country together and meet their demands for change.

Deborah Amos, NPR News, Tahrir Square, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.