Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has announced a government reshuffle within one week, as he faces mounting pressure from protesters over the slow pace of reform.
“I have ordered a cabinet reshuffle within a week to meet the demands of the revolution and reflect the real will of the people,” Sharaf said in a recorded address on state television on Monday.
He also set a deadline of July 15 for the dismissal of police officers accused of killing protesters during the uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.
The prime minister called on the judiciary to proceed with “open trials for all former regime officials and those accused of killing protesters so that the trials are swift in order to reassure the people.”
Sharaf, whose appointment was widely celebrated in March, has come under increased criticism for being too weak in the face of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which took power when Mubarak was ousted.
A military source told AFP that Sharaf’s speech had been delayed until the military council approved its final wording.
The prime minister had asked for the dismissal of several Mubarak-era cabinet members, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Yehia al-Gamal and Interior Minister Mansur Essawy, but the military rulers insisted on keeping Essawy, the military source said.
He also said local governors would be reshuffled before the end of the month.
Sharaf’s speech comes as sit-ins continue in Cairo, Alexandria and the canal city of Suez following nationwide rallies on Friday to demand political change.
Hundreds camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square — the epicentre of protests that toppled Mubarak– forming a picket line outside the Mugamma, a huge government complex housing Egypt’s sprawling bureaucracy.
In Alexandria, hundreds vowed not to budge from their sit-in in Qayed Ibrahim Square, and hundreds more packed into Al-Arbaeen Square in the canal city of Suez.
Friday’s protest and the ensuing sit-ins have been one of the biggest challenges to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, amid mounting tension in the past weeks marked by several clashes with security forces.
On Monday, Egypt stocks fell as heightened tensions raised fears the unrest would spread.
The main EGX-30 index closed down 2.93 percent at 5,116.21 points. On Sunday it had closed down 1.67 percent.
“There has been a big wave of selling by foreign investors… influenced by the sit-ins and demonstrations in the main squares of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez,” said financial analyst Marwa Abu Ouf.
Among protesters’ key demands are an end to military trials of civilians, the dismissal and prosecution of police officers accused of murder and torture — before and after the revolution — and open trials of former regime officials.
Mubarak is currently in custody in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik and is to face trial on August 3, along with his two sons Alaa and Gamal, on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters.
Several former ministers are currently in jail on corruption charges, but activists have repeatedly denounced the handling of legal proceedings, saying they want an open and thorough process for the sake of justice, not revenge.