Middle East

Egypt: Cairo's Tahrir Square fills with protesters

Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in Cairo to press for speedier reforms from the Egyptian government.

They took over Tahrir Square - the focus of the 18-day uprising earlier in the year - with security forces maintaining a discreet presence.

Many activists are angry at the slow pace of change since President Hosni Mubarak's fall on 11 February.

They particularly want to see Mr Mubarak and his officials put on trial more quickly.

They also accuse the military government of failing to adequately try those accused of killing and injuring protesters during the January and February uprising, and want an end to military trials of civilian protesters.

"Nothing has changed," one protester, Mohammed Abul Makarem, 18, said. "Change takes time, but there are reforms we can do now."

One opposition leader, Tarek al-Kholy went further, telling state TV: "We want the cleansing of all state institutions of former regime members, including the universities and judiciary. We want a reform of the interior ministry.

"Five months after the ouster of Mubarak, we have not achieved our goals".

Riots

Protesters began arriving in Tahrir Square throughout the night to pitch their tents. A large sunshade was erected in the middle of the square to give some relief from the scorching heat of the Egyptian summer.

Civilian checkpoints were set up to prevent trouble-makers getting into the square. Protesters were helping to direct traffic as police and security forces kept to the side streets in a bid to avoid confrontation.

Opposition leaders had called for a million people to turn out for the rally they had dubbed "Friday of Accountability", which followed Muslim prayers.

Even the powerful Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement said it would attend. "The law is above everyone, and justice has to prevail on all people, young and old," the group's Mahmoud Ghozlan said.

Official figures show that at least 846 people died and 6,000 more were injured during the 18 days of protests at the start of the year.

Since then, only one policeman has been convicted in more than a dozen court cases over the crackdown on protesters, the AP news agency reports. He was tried in absentia.

On Tuesday, a Cairo court acquitted three ministers from the Mubarak regime who had been charged with squandering public funds.

The decision, also this week, to release on bail seven policemen accused of killing 17 protesters sparked riots in both Cairo and Suez.

Activists are concerned that the 83-year-old former president remains in a regular hospital, with no date yet set for a court appearance for either him, his sons or his senior officials.

But, says the BBC's Jon Leyne, other Egyptians are opposed to the continuing protests and just want a return to normality, law and order and the revival of the economy.