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November 22, 2011 5:59 pm

Cairo Unrest Revived: 3 Americans Arrested

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Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi head of the Supreme Military Council.

Noel Clay, a spokesman for the US State Department confirmed to the Algemeiner that three United States citizens have been taken into custody in connection with the demonstrations in Cairo. The American Embassy in Cairo has been in contact with Egyptian authorities throughout the day, but has not yet had contact with the three Americans. Consular access has been requested and is expect to be granted by Wednesday. As the Algemeiner went to press, privacy issues forced the State Department spokesman to “refrain from providing further details since there had not yet been access to the detainees.

Associate Vice President for Communications at Georgetown University, Stacy Kerr, issued a statement acknowledging the arrest of Georgetown student, Derrik Sweeney, 19, a Georgetown student currently studying at the American University in Cairo. The student was arrested in Tahrir Square, along with two other American students studying at American University in Cairo. Kevin Sweeney, father of Derrick, told CBS Radio news that his 19 year old son “got caught up in something, and I hope they release him.”

Drexel University has been notified that Gregory Porter, an exchange student at the American University, is among the three Americans arrested. His is an international studies major. Porter is also accused of throwing firebombs. According to Niki Gianakaris, Drexel University’s Director of Media Relations, Porter was studying at the American University in Cairo while in Egypt. Drexel administrators are in contact with Porter’s parents and are working with authorities at the American University in Cairo and the U.S. Embassy to have Porter released and returned home safely.

Indiana University confirmed the detention of Luke Gates; a junior at the university’s Bloomington campus double-majoring in political science and Near Eastern languages and cultures.

The three were arrested for allegedly throwing “Molotov cocktails” though it was not immediately known what charges the three Americans were facing. The Minister of the Interior reports that they are being held at a Cairo prosecutor’s office. The Associated Press has reported that “the three were throwing firebombs at security officials who were battling protesters in the square.”

Egyptian National television has broadcast video of the three students, Derrik Sweeney (Georgetown University), Luke Gates (Indiana University), and Greg Porter (Drexel University). The three were pictured against a wall on state-run TV, with American University in Cairo identity cards and an Indiana driver’s license visible. All are attending the American University in Cairo.  (The university campus – which this writer visited in 1991 – is contiguous to Tahrir Square, the center point of the Cairo protests.)

In response to renewed and sometimes violent protests centered in Tahrir Square, and ahead of a threatened million man march on the Egyptian capital, Egypt’s Military Council has promised to proceed towards establishing a transition to civilian rule. As of November 22, Egypt’s ruling military said a new civilian cabinet will be headed by a non military, non political “technocrat” prime minister, rather than a politician or military officer. The new government will be put in place as soon as possible, and elections to select the candidates to make the transition to civilian rule are expected no later than June 2012, rather than on an open-ended timetable stretching into 2013 as originally conceived by the ruling generals.

The agreement came after the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces met with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. Reportedly, the meeting was not attended by most other political parties, as a protest against the renewed violence against the civilian population. Under the agreement, the first round of elections for a national assembly is to go ahead as scheduled. The Muslim Brotherhood stands to win a large share of the seats.

Concern for stability and safety runs high.  Demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square are demanding immediate reform and are unlikely to be satisfied with elections scheduled in the middle of 2012,  large crowds of protestors are demanding the immediate surrender of the military council and rapid transfer of power to civilian authority

Although no official statement has been issued by the Government of Egypt, Ahmed Sharaf Morsy, press officer at the Consulate of Egypt in New York, gave the Algemeiner a summary of news being broadcast by Egyptian television. According to his summary, the ruling Higher Military Council has assured the Egyptian people that elections will take place as scheduled, and has asked the people to control the situation” and “calm down.”

Broadcast reports indicate that the resignation of the Higher Military Council has been accepted.  However, it will have will remain in place until a new government is formed. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, a veteran military officer continues as head of Egypt’s High Military Council.

With the number of protestors increasing, and violence against the people by Egyptian security forces rampant – dozens have been arrested and 33 already known dead – pressure on the ruling to institute reforms is increasing. In Tahrir Square Tuesday, demonstrators carried the body of a dead protester as a symbol of the growing anger toward Egypt’s military chiefs. Renewed unrest has been brewing in Egypt for almost a week.

Protest leaders say a ““million-man march” is planned in Tahrir Square, although several political leaders have refused to participate because of the violence being exercised on the protestors. However, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who has emerged as a possibility to head a national unity government, and Shady Ghazali Harb, a leading member of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, and a close ally of ElBaradei’s have refused to participate in the meetings. Says Harb, “We cannot negotiate with anyone still doing such violence.”

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