Hundreds Injured as Egyptians Take Back Tahrir

Cairo protests against principles on which the new constitution will be drafted, are largest since fall of Mubarak regime earlier this year.

After a long period of calm during which protest moved from the street to the media, Cairo's Tahrir Square is again a forum for direct dialogue between political movements and the Egyptian regime.

Hundreds of thousands of Cairenes rallied on Friday in the largest public protest since the fall of the Mubarak regime earlier this year. They were demonstrating against the principles on which the new constitution will be drafted - a challenge to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that is running the country until new elections are held.

A large contingent of police surrounded the square and tried to disperse the protesters using tear gas. Many demonstrators held their ground until early Saturday, when the police stepped up the use of force.

According to reports from Cairo, at least 500 people were injured, many of them from the security forces, and dozens were arrested. The square reportedly has been brought under the full control of the authorities and the demonstrators have been dispersed.

The spark for the new "million strong" protest has its roots in August, when the deputy prime minister and representatives of political movements began working on principles to define the character of the new Egyptian constitution.

When the final draft was presented, it included two articles that appeared to contradict democratic principles.

One holds that the military's role is to protect the state, its unity, security and constitutional legitimacy, and that the supreme council has exclusive responsibility for approving all legislation pertaining to the military.

Another article calls for the establishment of a national defense committee to examine all matters pertaining to the country's security.

This was immediately interpreted as a bid to give the army supreme authority on when to go to war and to define what constitutes national security.

The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, had been defined as a national security threat for decades; the group has demanded that these articles be deleted.

The Muslim Brotherhood has also demanded that an article in this draft constitution stating that Egypt is a "civil and democratic country" be altered and that it should only say "democratic" to prevent any suggestion of secularism.