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Watching Egypt: Mubarak Still in Meeting with Suleiman; Military Might Assume Transitional Power [Updated]

[Ed. note: See updates below at bottom of post.]

The latest reports (or should we call them all rumors?) point to the Egyptian military planning to assume at least transitional power in Egypt. What this means for the people and their demands is hard to predict.

Al Jazeera points to the significance of the open-ended Supreme Council meeting announced just a few hours ago along with a buildup in Cairo:

6:49pm: Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera correspondent, notes the military’s Supreme Council has only ever held three open sessions in its history. 1967, 1973 – and today.

6:44pm: Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reports the military presence in downtown Cairo has increased in recent hours, with greater numbers of tanks making a highly visible presence.

At the same time, AJE is reporting that Mubarak is still meeting with Suleiman suggesting the situation remains very fluid. Mubarak’s speech in a few hours is expected to be live and no one can be certain what he will say.

While this may all be a positive development, remember that Human Rights Watch issued a report last night that:

The US-based Human Rights Watch alleged in a detailed statement on Wednesday that at least 119 people were detained by the army and at least five cases were tortured. By other estimates those numbers are well into the hundreds.

The group documented that the released detainees said “they were held incommunicado, did not have access to a lawyer, and could not inform their families about their detention.”

“Arrests by military police of journalists, human rights defenders, and youth activists since January 31 appear intended to intimidate reporting and undermine support for the Tahrir protest,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. “These arrests and reports of abuse in detention are exactly the types of practices that sparked the demonstrations in the first place.”

UPDATE 12:50 EST – From Egyptian Chronicles, Zeinobia reports what Egyptians are hearing:

Statement no.1 : Army respects the people and will do its best to protect it .. etc.
More statements to come and people are going crazy from happiness…
Rumors circulating that Mubarak has left the country, places of destinations are Dubai and Jordan.There are rumors that Cairo international airport is being evacuated to let Mubarak leave now. Another rumor that that he is being detained at a military airport.

We misinterpreted the movement of the army in Cairo last night when huge forces moved to the Presidential palace in Orooba and the ETRU building , these were clear signs but we did not understand, nobody understood this because of the neutral position of the army !!

We are being ruled now by that army council which is in permanent meeting status.

Al jazeera claims that the army intervened when Mubarak was going to transfer some of his powers to Soliman, in fact this was what Mubarak was going to announce allegedly tonight. Already now we are hearing that officers tried to killed Soliman in that assassination attempt.

More people are saying that the man who is going to be our transitional president is General Sami Anan.

UPDATE 1:15 EST – As we all wait for Mubarak’s speech, We are all Khaled Said expresses the mood:

Mubarak is so slow. Slow in understanding our demands, slow in listening to the people telling him to go, slow in running away like Ben Ali & he is now even slower in playing his recorded departure speach.

Ben Wedeman reporting live on CNN tells us that the crowds continue to grow in Tahrir Square – with long lines waiting to get in. His latest tweet:

It’s all excitement now in #Tahrir as people wait for Mubarak’s speech, but what about tomorrow? Too many questions, NO answers. #Egypt

It’s unclear what the reaction will be if the military takes over but then again, the protesters have no desire to have Suleiman in charge since he is simply a continuation of the regime. Just seeing Mubarak and his regime go would be a historic victory but the protesters will insist on a real transition, not a simple military coup.

Al-Masry Al-Youm reports on the military moves:

The statement was labeled “communiqué number 1,” a phrasing that suggests a military coup.

Footage on state TV showed Defense Minster Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi chairing the meeting of two dozen stern-faced top army officers seated around a table.

At Tantawi’s right was military chief of staff General Sami Anan. Not present was Mubarak, the commander-in-chief and a former air force head, or his vice president, Omar Suleiman, a former army general and general intelligence chief assigned to his current post after the uprising erupted on January 25.

UPDATE 1:45 EST – Obama is speaking in Marquette now – talking about the young people in the forefront of the Egyptian democracy movement. “We want those young people to know we will do everything we can to support an orderly transition.” And then moves along ….

Mubarak was due to talk now but no word from him yet.

We are all Khaled Said reports:

The minister of information (Anas El Fiki) has said that everything the world media is saying are just rumours and Mubarak is not stepping down!!!

We will never stop until he goes & regime falls. If it is not for us, it’s for Egypt and for those who died to let us live in freedom.

CNN is reporting the Minister’s statement as well.

BBC’s Lyse Doucet tweets:

bbclysedoucet RT @BBCWorld: BBC Fergus Nicol #Tahrir Square: “Everybody’s on tenterhooks. If something dramatic happens place will go bananas” #Egypt

bbclysedoucet Mood electric in Cairo. Palpable sense of anticipation. What will Mubarak say tonite? #jan25 #egypt

bbclysedoucet Driving thru Cairo traffic.People already beeping horns & waving V for victory signs. #jan25 #egypt

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

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