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Egypt protesters demand swifter prosecution of Mubarak regime

Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square on Friday to demand the prosecution of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile], his family, and members of his regime. The protests reveal Egyptians' growing frustration with the pace at which the current military council is pursuing the punishment of the regime's political corruption [JURIST reports]. Predominantly organized by Egypt's Revolution Youth Coalition, an activist group formed in honor of a young protester [BBC backgrounder] killed by Egyptian police, the protest, dubbed "Friday of Purification and Trial," is the largest organized rally since Mubarak resigned from office [video, JURIST report] in February. Authorities announced [AP report] they have recently questioned Mubarak's former chief of staff, Zakaria Azmy, who remains in jail pending further investigation [Ahram report], and plan to question former ruling party chief, Safwat el-Sharif.

Egypt has been heavily criticized by rights groups and international organizations for its handling of protesters. In February, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported new evidence that the Supreme Military Council of Egypt had been torturing protester-detainees [JURIST report]. Through various detainee accounts, AI stated that individuals were tortured "to intimidate protesters and to obtain information about plans for the protests." Also in February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported that the Egyptian military was improperly detaining protesters and allowing prisoner abuse [JURIST report]. The report calculated at least 119 arbitrary detentions and five incidents of torture, providing detainee accounts. HRW contends that the military was targeting human rights activists, protesters and journalists. In January, UN officials including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official websites] urged the Egyptian government to exercise restraint [JURIST report] and respect the rights of protesters.

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