However, the government of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was reportedly reluctant to free Hosni Mubarak because of the public backlash that might accompany such a move.
Abdul Fattah al-Sisi served as Hosni Mubarak’s military intelligence chief and led the military’s overthrow of his democratically elected successor, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013.
In all, more than 800 people are believed to have been killed as security forces clashed with protesters in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other cities around Egypt during the 18-day uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to resign.
Tunisia is voting in the first presidential election since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that triggered uprisings across the region.
Twenty seven candidates are in the race, but incumbent Moncef Marzouki and anti-Islamist leader Beji Caid Essebsi are widely seen as the favorites.
The poll forms part of a political transition after the revolution that ousted Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
A parliamentary vote was held in October.
Tunisia – seen as the birthplace of the Arab Spring – is considered to have had the most successful outcome, with relatively low levels of violence.
Today’s election will deliver the country’s first directly elected leader since the removal of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Most polling stations were opening at 08:00 and due to close 10 hours later.
If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a run-off round will be held on December 31.
“We were the first to enter this cycle of change which they have called the Arab Spring,” PM Mehdi Jomaa was quoted as saying on the eve of the poll.
“We will be the first [to make the transition] but others will follow,” he added.
Beji Caid Essebsi, from the Nidaa Tounes (Tunisia’s Call) party, is the favorite to win after his party came first in the parliamentary election.
However, critics say Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old who served in the governments of post-independence leader Habib Bourguiba as well as Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, represents the past.
Among the other candidates are Moncef Marzouki, parliamentary Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar, Republican Party leader Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, female magistrate Kalthoum Kannou and businessman Slim Riahi.
The Islamist party Ennahda, which led Tunisia’s last government but was beaten by Nidaa Tounes in October’s parliamentary election, did not field a candidate.
A statement from Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi spoke of wanting “to avoid deepening polarization or dividing the country”. Ennahda’s rise had led to concerns among more secular-minded Tunisians that Islamists would dominate politics.
Tunisia is still facing the specter of civil unrest and terrorism, with Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou warning of “serious security threats” near the Algerian border where al-Qaeda militants are said to be hiding.
Bahrain is voting in its first parliamentary elections since Arab Spring protests broke out in 2011.
The government has called on all of the country’s political factions to participate in Saturday’s poll.
However, Shia opposition groups plan to stage a boycott, saying the vote is an attempt to establish “absolute rule”.
Despite being ruled by a Sunni monarchy, the majority of the Bahraini population are Shias.
Disenchanted protesters took to the streets of the capital, Manama, in 2011 to demand greater civil rights.
The protests were stamped out when the government, backed by Saudi tanks, moved in to crush dissent.
Talks to resolve the situation have since collapsed and unrest has continued.
Some 350,000 people are eligible to vote, choosing 40 legislators from among 266 mostly Sunni candidates.
A coalition of opposition groups said it would boycott Saturday’s legislative and municipal elections.
The alliance, which includes al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s most popular opposition group, has called the poll a “sham”.
It has also demanded an elected prime minister who is independent from the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy.
“These elections are destined to fail because the government is incapable of addressing the political crisis,” al-Wefaq member Abdul-Jalil Khalil told the Associated Press news agency.
Bahraini Information Minister Sameera Ebrahim Bin Rajab said that the “door to dialogue will never be shut, including with al-Wefaq” but added: “Violence is not allowed. It is tantamount to terrorism.”
Bahrain is of key strategic importance to Washington and hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
The election will also be closely watched by Saudi Arabia, which has a large Shia Muslim population in its Eastern Province.
Tunisians are voting to elect the country’s first full parliament under a new constitution passed earlier this year.
The election is one of the final stages in the political transition which followed the ousting of authoritarian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
There are no opinion polls, but the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which won Tunisia’s last national election in 2011, is expected to do well.
Its main rival is likely to be the liberal Nidaa Tounes (Tunisia’s Call).
Most of the major parties have vowed to tackle Tunisia’s high unemployment and to reinvigorate its economy.
Tunisia is seen as the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” – the pro-democracy movement which sought to replace autocratic governments in several Arab countries.
The country is considered to have had the most successful outcome, with relatively low levels of violence.
Tunisians are voting to elect the country’s first full parliament under a new constitution passed earlier this year (photo Reuters)
However, radical groups within Tunisia have threatened to disrupt the elections and on October 23 militants shot a policeman on the outskirts of the capital, Tunis.
More than 50,000 security personnel and nearly 20,000 soldiers are expected to be deployed on Sunday to ensure safe voting.
Around five million Tunisians have registered to vote, with overseas residents having already cast their votes on October 24.
Some observers fear a low turnout, arguing that voters have become disaffected with politics after a lack of economic progress in the years following Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s overthrow.
Results are expected on October 29. Ennahda, which currently rules in coalition with other parties, has promised to pursue a unity government even if it wins the most seats.
Tunisia is set to hold a presidential election on November 23, which will deliver the country’s first directly elected leader following the ousting of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in street protests almost four years ago.
The protests, which began in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid in late 2010, later gathered pace and spread across much of the Arab world the following year.
Twenty journalists, including four foreigners, are facing charges in Egypt, prosecutors have said.
The Egyptian journalists are accused of belonging to a “terrorist organization” and the four foreigners are accused of assisting it, or spreading false news.
The defendants include two Britons, a Dutch national and an Australian – believed to be al-Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste.
Earlier, international news networks called for the release of five al-Jazeera journalists.
The 16 Egyptian defendants face several allegations including belonging to a terrorist group, harming national unity and social peace, and using terrorism as a means to their goals.
The four foreigners are accused of collaborating with the Egyptians and providing them with information, equipment, and money as well as broadcasting false information and rumors to convince the international community that Egypt was undergoing a civil war.
Eight of the defendants are in detention, while 12 are on the run with arrest warrants issued against them, according to the prosecutor’s statement.
No names are mentioned. But it said the four foreigners were correspondents for the Qatari al-Jazeera news network.
Peter Greste’s appeal against his detention without charge was denied on Wednesday by a Cairo court
“We only know of five people in jail,” said al-Jazeera’s head of newsgathering Heather Allen.
“We don’t know about the full charge. Things are not clear at the moment. We are still waiting for clarity.”
Peter Greste’s appeal against his detention without charge was denied on Wednesday by a Cairo court.
The staff members and journalists of al-Jazeera were arrested in late December following interior ministry accusations of illegally broadcasting from a hotel suite.
Al-Jazeera has said the men were merely reporting the situation in Egypt.
Of the three arrested a month ago, Peter Greste is accused of collaborating with “terrorists” by talking to members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned by the military-backed government.
Al-Jazeera Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, who is Egyptian-Canadian, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed are accused of the more serious offence of membership of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The al-Jazeera network says it was “surprised” when its reporters were arrested by Egyptian authorities.
Two more of its staff – journalist Abdullah al-Shami and cameraman Mohammad Badr – were arrested in July and August.
At least seven people died during violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the military-backed government as Egypt marks the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising which ended with the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.
Police broke up anti-government protests with tear gas, and arrests were reported in Cairo and Alexandria.
Hundreds have died since July when the army deposed President Mohamed Morsi.
The government has said extra security measures are in place for Saturday.
Egyptian Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim urged Egyptians not to be afraid to go to events marking the anniversary of the uprising.
Egypt marks the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising which ended with the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak
Thousands of supporters of the military and the government have gathered in high-profile locations including Tahrir Square – the focal point of the 18-day 2011 popular revolt.
Participants waved Egyptian flags and banners showing army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom many urged to run for president.
But police dealt harshly with anti-government protesters in Cairo and elsewhere. At least seven people have died – four in the greater Cairo area, two in the southern city of Minya and a woman in Egypt’s second city, Alexandria.
Shortly before 8 a.m. on Saturday, a bomb was thrown at the wall of the police training academy in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams, reportedly injuring one person.
Six people died in four bombings in Cairo on Friday, along with at least another dozen people killed in clashes with security forces.
Meanwhile on Saturday, an army helicopter crashed in the restive Sinai peninsula, with an unconfirmed report that its crew of five soldiers was dead.
Egypt’s leading activists Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel from the 2011 uprising that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak have been sentenced to three years in jail.
They were found guilty of organizing a recent unauthorized protest.
Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel were arrested after protesting in November over a new controversial law that restricts demonstrations.
The three well-known activists have long called for greater democracy in Egypt.
Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel were founding members of the April 6th Youth Movement, which led protests to remove long-time President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The three were among a group of demonstrators outside the upper house of parliament in late November protesting over the new law, which states that public gatherings of more than 10 people must be authorized.
Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel were found guilty of organizing an unauthorized protest
The military-installed government has defended the law, saying it is not intended to limit the right to demonstrate but rather to “protect the rights of protesters”.
But its opponents say the law has in effect replaced a recently expired state of emergency, and is stricter than the measures in place during the rule of Hosni Mubarak.
The men are the first to be jailed under the new law. The court in Cairo found them guilty of holding a demonstration without authorization and attacking police officers.
State-run television said the men had been sentenced to three years’ hard labor. They have also been ordered to pay a $7,000 fine each.
As the verdict was read out, the courtroom erupted with chants of “Down, down with military rule! We are in a state, not in a military camp”, Reuters news agency reports.
Until recently, the main targets for arrests by the authorities had been Islamists, many of whom continue to protest over the ousting by the military of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mohamed Morsi in the summer after weeks of mass protests.
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