CAIRO: Eight army officers joined tens of thousands of protestors in Tahrir Square on the Friday of "Purification and Trial," calling for the resignation of Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi and the prosecution of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
It was the biggest turnout in the iconic Cairo square since Feb. 18, when Egyptians flocked Tahrir to celebrate Mubarak’s ouster.
Regular rallies have been held since Mubarak was toppled on Feb. 11, but some believed the significant increase in numbers was due to the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most organized opposition movement.
"We will stay here [in Tahrir Square] until the Field Marshal leaves and Hosni Mubarak is prosecuted," the officers told protesters after Friday prayers.
The protesters applauded and cheered chanting "we are with you," and "the army and the people are one hand."
"We are not afraid to be prosecuted," the soldiers added. "We are here among our people."
Tantawi was Mubarak's defense minister for two decades and heads the military council.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), that took power after Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11, warned that anyone protesting in military uniform on Friday would face trial in a military court.
The officers showed their military ID cards to the people in Tahrir Square to prove that they were not imposters and that they are still in military service.
Ahead of the protest, several men referring to themselves as former army officers publicly challenged the SCAF and called for its members to step down.
In a series of defiant videos widely circulated on YouTube, the men who say they speak for many members of the armed forces accused the military council of thwarting the goals of the revolution.
However, the Coalition of Egyptian Army Officers and the People said on its Facebook page that it withdrew from participating in Friday's protests, for fear that Israel would invade Egypt if the army tightens its grip on Egypt's borders.
The page cited unconfirmed reports claiming that two rockets fell on Egyptian territory near the Rafah border during Israeli raids on the Palestinians in Gaza on Thursday.
General Coordinator of the Kefaya Movement for Change Abdel Halim Qandil and former director of Al Jazeera channel's Cairo Bureau, Hussein Abdel Ghani, also took the podium and addressed the people in Tahrir Square.
Abdel Ghani condemned the Israeli attack on Gaza and protesters chanted that they would sacrifice their lives for the Palestinians.
"The Egyptian people are the ones who will protect their revolution along with the great army," Qandil said.
Qandil added that Mubarak should be charged with grand treason against Egypt.
"We will stay here [in Tahrir] until all our demands are met," Abdel Ghani said.
Ahmed Rifaat, 14, and his younger brother Mohamed, 12, held a banner saying, "The people want Mubarak and his family prosecuted."
"This is the first time we ever came to Tahrir because we want Mubarak and his family prosecuted," Rifaat told Daily News Egypt. "Otherwise we'll have to go to Mubarak in Sharm El-Sheikh and protest there."
Mubarak has been living in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh since he was ousted. The military said the 82-year-old president is under house arrest.
"Every Thursday, the army issues a decision to calm the people down and prevent them from protesting," Marwa Anis, 24, told DNE. "We want all our demands fulfilled including the prosecution of Mubarak and the protection of our revolution from the former regime."
Several protesters and many activists had drawn a connection between army answering demands and their calls for marches.
Zakaria Azmi, a leading Mubarak aide, was the latest high profile figure to be arrested on Thursday on accusations of illegal gains. Reformists questioned why it had taken so long.
Days earlier, Egypt's former housing minister, Mohammed Ibrahim Suleiman, was arrested on suspicion he was involved in the illegal sale of state lands for cut-rate prices.
Hossam Bahgat, who heads the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the protests had been successful.
"People are coming primarily to keep the momentum. The transition process has so far lacked predictability," Bahgat said.
"The Friday protests have so far been effective in getting two or three concessions each time."
Earlier, draped in Egyptian flags, Muslims were joined by Christians for weekly prayers during which Muslim cleric Safwat Hegazy called for Mubarak to face criminal charges.
"We don't only want to try him for the millions (of dollars) but also for the blood," he told the crowd. We want to try him just as he tried the people in state security courts, but we want a popular trial."
Hegazy said the "cleansing" had to go beyond the presidential palace, threatening to storm the state television building because regime elements were still there.
"The rotten smell of the regime emanates from under their masks. We are prepared to occupy this building and manage it to make a patriotic media," he said.
Detainees and security
Other protesters called for the release of all political detainees and the compensations of the martyrs' families for their loss.
"The money that was stolen from us by the former regime must be returned back to the people," Shaimaa Tarek, 23, told DNE.
Randa Salam, a 47-year-old housewife, called for the return of the police to protect the streets from thugs.
"The police have to go back to the streets and perform their duty in protecting the people, whether the people like them or not," she told DNE.
"When the police do their job, the people will start accepting them again," Salam said.
Some police officers have returned to the streets, however many areas remain without any police protection and the traffic in many areas is not moderated.
While the people were chanting slogans and dancing to national songs, Ali Farid, 32, was cleaning Tahrir from litter.
"I will clean my own country from litter before we clean it from the figures of the former corrupt regime," Farid said.
Tahrir Square was closed off for protesters, and people stood at its entrance checking IDs and searching for any weapons, in a scene reminiscent of the 18-day protests that started on Jan. 25.
A large Egyptian flag was displayed around the square while the people chanted "Long live Egypt." Palestinian, Yemeni and Syrian flags were also wave, along with the one adopted by the Libyan rebels.–Additional reporting by agencies.