By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Los Angeles Times
CAIRO - Mohamed al Beheiry was reading the newspaper Feb. 28 when he spotted a photograph of his younger brother, Amr, who had disappeared two days earlier while attending an antigovernment protest.
The newspaper report on "arrested thugs" helped Mohamed find Amr, 33, in a Cairo jail. A guard there said he would stand trial before a military court in 15 days on charges of breaking curfew and assaulting a public official, under the emergency law dating from ousted President Hosni Mubarak's rule.
But when Beheiry returned the next day, officials said his brother already had been tried and given a five-year sentence.
"It's like we got rid of one tyrant and now we have another," said Beheiry, 37, who runs a shipping company.
Egyptian activists infuriated over the arrests of fellow protesters since Mubarak stepped down Feb. 11 are planning to take over Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday in a massive demonstration dubbed the "Second Revolution." One of their aims is to force the transitional military government to uphold principles of the pro-democracy movement and end the three-decade-old emergency law that has allowed officials to imprison protesters through military trials.
Government officials have taken some steps to address grievances in recent days, including releasing about 250 prisoners and charging Mubarak this week in connection with the shooting deaths of protesters during the uprising.
In an address on state television this week, interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf pleaded with protesters to give the government more time to improve.
"It is difficult, even impossible, for us to deal with and realize all factional demands ... on an individual basis," Sharaf said. "A lot of (the problems) depend on institutional and administrative reform. I hope that you cooperate with us and give us time to meet these demands in a way that is fair for all."
Activists say the government's recent moves fail to address the need for overhauling Egypt's justice system.
Tarek Shalaby, 26, a social media consultant, was among those released last week. He had been arrested during a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo this month and charged with participating in an illegal gathering. He was tried by a military court and released after four days with a suspended three-year sentence.
Still, Shalaby was at a meeting this week at the lawyer's association in Cairo in support of those still detained. He and others said they planned to head to Tahrir Square on Friday, even though they could be arrested again and face jail time because of their suspended sentences.
"We're taking to the streets to get rid of the military dictatorship," Shalaby said.