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Former Mubarak officials arrested

Maliki decries plans for protest

Associated Press / February 25, 2011

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CAIRO — Egyptian authorities yesterday arrested the country’s former information minister and the chairman of state television and radio on corruption allegations, the latest moves by the country’s ruling military against senior officials of Hosni Mubarak’s ousted regime, security officials said.

Authorities also referred to trial two former Cabinet ministers and a one-time top official of Mubarak’s political party. They will face corruption charges, the security officials said.

Yesterday’s arrests of Anas al-Fiqqi, the ex-information minister, and Osama el-Sheikh, the state television boss, were widely expected. Al-Fiqqi was placed under house arrest earlier this month and el-Sheikh was banned from traveling abroad Wednesday, steps that often precede a criminal investigation or a trial.

Al-Fiqqi was a confidante of Mubarak and his powerful, one-time heir apparent son Gamal. Under his and el-Sheikh’s stewardship, state television persistently tried to discredit the young organizers of the 18-day uprising that forced Mubarak to hand power to the military after nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule.

Egypt’s media have been buzzing with reports of spectacular corruption by members of Mubarak’s regime as well as businessmen linked to his government. Authorities are inviting Egyptians to come forward with evidence of alleged corruption by the toppled regime, pledging not to reveal their identities.

Elsewhere yesterday:

Iraq Iraq’s prime minister warned his people to boycott a planned antigovernment protest scheduled for today, saying it was being organized by supporters of Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave no proof for his assertion in a nationally televised speech yesterday, which echoed similar blanket statements he’s made blaming terrorists and Saddam loyalists for an array of problems in the country.

Religious figures including anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the leader of Iraq’s majority Shi’ite community also have raised doubts about the rally.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for 46 people facing treason charges for allegedly plotting an Egyptian-style uprising in Zimbabwe said yesterday that some members of the group were tortured by police.

Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi ordered the suspects to be held in detention to reappear Monday, saying only a higher court was empowered to free them on bail on treason charges.

He ordered that they be given medical examinations before the hearing to verify allegations of torture.

Yemen Yemen’s president yesterday ordered the formation of a government committee to open a dialogue with protesters who have been staging demonstrations for weeks demanding the president step down, state media reported.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s directive appeared to mark a significant concession in the standoff with the opposition, as well as an attempt to defuse the demonstrations that have been inspired by the successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

The protesters in Yemen, an impoverished country with a weak central government and an active branch of Al Qaeda, are demanding the resignation of the US-backed Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years.

Yemen’s SABA news agency said Saleh ordered his prime minister to lead the five-member committee that it to “have a constructive and open dialogue with the young brothers, including protesters . . . and to listen to their conditions and visions.’’

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