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Egyptian protesters sue military, raising tensions

CAIRO — Two of Egypt's most prominent youth movements have sued the military government as tensions continued to rise between demonstrators and the country's ruling generals.

The generals had accused the two groups — Kefaya, which means "enough" in Arabic, and the April 6 movement — of instigating strife between the army and the Egyptian people, and of receiving foreign funding. The groups denied the charges and filed lawsuits Sunday and Monday, alleging that the military had defamed them.

Both movements were instrumental in helping to organize the massive demonstrations in January and February that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, and they've also been behind the large protests of recent weeks that have accused the interim military rulers of ignoring the revolution's demands.

The feud escalated over the weekend after the military council published a statement on its Facebook page early Saturday that said, "The strife that the April 6 movement is trying to start between the people and the army is one of the goals they have been pursuing for a long time."

Later, Gen. Hassan El-Roweini, a member of the military council and the head of the Central Military Zone Command, which covers the Cairo area, told a local cable channel that Kefaya "is not an Egyptian movement" and charged that April 6 was receiving foreign funds.

The statement prompted more protesters to join a march from Cairo's central Tahrir Square to the headquarters of the military council east of the city on Saturday night. More than 10,000 protesters clashed with residents in the district of Abbaseya, where the army cut off all roads leading to the council compound.

The clashes, which continued for a few hours early Sunday morning, left more than 300 people injured, according to Health Ministry officials.

Ahmed Maher, an organizer of the April 6 movement, said its members would continue to march to the military headquarters "until the demands of the revolution are met."

"If General Hassan El-Roweini has anything proving any foreign funding to the movement he should present it as well," Maher said.

The Kefaya movement issued a statement that said it had filed a complaint with the national prosecutor demanding that Roweini "either submit proof of his accusations to the movement or publicly apologize."

"What El-Roweini says is illogical and unacceptable," Abdel Halim Kandil, a Kefaya spokesman, told the daily newspaper Al Ahram.

Separately, several thousand protesters signed a call to prosecute Roweini for his "treasonous accusations to noble Egyptians."

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's powerful opposition group, has little in common with the youth movements, which are led by middle-class and mostly educated Egyptians. But the Islamist group issued a statement condemning the military council's actions.

"If the council does not present proof of its accusations, then we accuse them of instigating strife between the people and the revolutionaries," read a statement by the Brotherhood's youth wing.

The ruling military council of Egypt has been under mounting criticism from demonstrators, who are impatient with the pace of reforms in the post-Mubarak era. In Tahrir Square, thousands chanted, "The people demand the downfall of the marshal," referring to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, a lifelong friend of Mubarak's who heads the military council.

Safwat El Alem, a professor of political media at Cairo University, said the military rulers' recent actions were fueling instability.

"There are several decisions and policies of the supreme council that are not serving the revolution," Alem said.

"Such accusations against revolutionaries are totally unacceptable, especially when it comes from the leadership of the country."

(Sabry is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


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