Thousands of people demonstrated in Egypt on Friday to demand Hosni Mubarak’s last premier Ahmed Shafiq be banned from a run-off presidential election, even as Shafiq pledged to uphold freedoms if he won.
The protesters also denounced verdicts in the trial of Mubarak and his security chiefs amid reports that the ailing strongmen sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of protesters could be transferred from jail to military hospital.
Mubarak and his interior minister Habib al-Adly were sentenced to life terms on June 2, but the court acquitted six police commanders of the shared charges of ordering the killings of protesters during last year’s uprising.
In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the hub of nationwide protests that overthrow Mubarak last year, more than 5,000 protesters denounced Shafiq and the Mubarak verdicts as activists staged a mock trial of the ousted president on a wooden podium.
A man dressed in a judge’s robe sentenced Mubarak and his cohorts to death as the crowd chanted “God is greatest!”
“No to leftovers from the old regime,” read one placard, in an allusion to Shafiq who faces the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Mursi in next week’s run-off election.
Smaller protests were held in Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast and several other cities.
In a press conference, Shafiq, whose strong showing in the election’s first round last month sent shockwaves throughout the fragmented groups which helped overthrow Mubarak, pledged he would uphold freedoms.
“Public squares will be free and secure for expression,” he said. “I promise you, no youth will be arrested for political activities.”
Shafiq launched a vehement attack against his Islamist opponents, accusing the Brotherhood of wanting “obedient youth that kiss hands.”
The Brotherhood has accused Shafiq of wanting to restore Mubarak’s rule, which ended in February 2011 after a 18-day uprising that killed roughly 850 people.
Mubarak and his security chiefs were accused of ordering some of the protesters’ deaths, but the court said the prosecution’s witnesses were unreliable and there was no proof. Instead, Mubarak and Adly were convicted for failing to prevent the deaths.
The 84-year-old’s health has reportedly deteriorated since his incarceration in Cairo’s Tora prison after the sentencing, and the official MENA news agency reported that he might be moved back to a military hospital.
A security official said a team of doctors who reviewed Mubarak’s health said the prison medical facilities were sufficient but advised the state prosecutor that Mubarak should be moved to hospital if his health deteriorated.
The verdict in the trial has impacted the presidential election, with the Brotherhood seizing on the popular outrage to portray its candidate Mursi as a revolutionary who would retry Mubarak.
The protests have also targeted Shafiq, who is deeply unpopular with the political groups that joined the anti-Mubarak revolt. They demand the application of a law passed before the first round of voting that excluded top Mubarak officials from running.
Shafiq was initially disqualified from standing but, in late April, the electoral commission accepted an appeal from him and referred the case to the Supreme Constitutional Court.
The court is to sit on Thursday, two days ahead of the run-off, to review the law.