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Thousands call for trials of Egypt regime figures

Egyptians returned in their thousands to Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to demand that former President Hosni Mubarak and members of his ousted regime be brought to trial face accusations of corruption, vote-rigging and abuse of dissidents.

Such prosecutions are a central aim of the 18-day popular movement that toppled Mubarak on Feb. 11 after nearly three decades of autocratic rule, both to heal old wounds and to try to ensure the ex-officials don't creep back to power. Many in Egypt's pro-reform camp say the current military rulers are not moving fast enough to meet those and other demands to transform their country's politics.

"Those who killed the demonstrators, those who stole the money, those who cheated in the elections — they are still here; nobody has been tried, and the army is being slow in taking decisions," said Mama Noura, a 45-year-old woman among the protesters who wore a baseball camp emblazoned with the words "I Love Egypt."

Egyptian prosecutors are going after top figures in the former regime and others associated with it, including businessmen, politicians and security officials.

On Thursday, Justice Ministry officials imposed a travel ban on three top associates of Mubarak, citing corruption suspicions. They are Parliament speaker Fathi Surour, presidential chief of staff Zakariya Azmi, and ruling party head Safwat el-Sherif.

Several ex-officials, including Cabinet ministers, have been referred to trial in the coming weeks to face corruption charges. The former interior minister, already on trial on corruption charges, is also to go to trial over the deaths of some of the estimated 300 people killed during the crackdown on protests, which started Jan. 25.

Authorities have also placed Mubarak and his family under house arrest and frozen their assets abroad.

Some of those at Friday's protest noted, however, that no charges have been filed against Mubarak since he was forced out of power.

Reflecting their fears, the protest was called "The Friday for Rescuing the Revolution."

"Our revolution isn't yet done. We are afraid it will be snatched away from us," said Ula Dabous, 30, who walked to the square with her niece. "That's our biggest concern."

In the most dramatic display of those worries, Egyptians unwilling to wait for authorities to act stormed offices of the hated State Security agency last month, seizing documents to keep them from being destroyed to hide evidence of human rights abuses.

A couple of weeks later, the agency was dissolved, but many fear some of its 100,000 members are still working underground to derail the bumpy transition to democracy.

Speakers addressing the crowd on Friday at different spots in the vast square said Mubarak should face justice. Some even called for his public execution in Tahrir Square.

Weeks after the uprising, there are also concerns about the political path ahead. The ruling military council, which took over from Mubarak, says it will hand the country back to civilian rule and that parliamentary elections will be held in September and presidential elections a month or two after.

But some Egyptians are anxious that emerging political parties, whose formation was severely restricted until now, will not have enough time to prepare and compete with established forces like the Muslim Brotherhood and remnants of Mubarak's party.

Some supporters of the Brotherhood, the country's best organized opposition movement, came out to Tahrir to say other Egyptians should not fear them.

"We are here to reassure people — especially Christians — that we don't want to oppress them. The Muslim Brotherhood is not the boogeyman that the former regime claimed it was," said Kamila el-Sharawi.

Some of the nascent political forces sought to build support among the Tahrir crowd by appealing to the anti-Israel sentiment that runs deep in Egypt despite a 1979 peace treaty between the two countries.

To wild cheers, Ashraf Huweidar of the Union of Popular Socialism told a crowd of several thousand that his new party would cancel the peace agreement if it came to power — something the military leadership has indicated it won't allow.

(This version CORRECTS that trial dates have been set for some officials and the interior minister's corruption trial already begun).)