Global rallies hail toppling of Mubarak

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Jubilant activists took to the streets around the world Saturday to celebrate the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and to support pro-democracy protests across the Middle East.

Victory rallies took place in Sydney, Washington, London and other cities, echoing joyous scenes in Cairo a day after strongman Mubarak handed power to the army to end 30 years of autocratic rule.

At by far the biggest rally, several thousand people gathered in London's historic Trafalgar Square where huge screens broadcast a live link to Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protests.

"It's incredible. Two weeks ago if somebody had told me that one of the most powerful dictators in the world would be leaving, I wouldn't have believed it," Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty told AFP.

Many of the rallies were originally called by Amnesty International as part of a global wave of protests to urge Mubarak to quit, but turned into victory celebrations after his resignation was announced.

Western leaders welcomed the toppling of Mubarak as a victory for people power as China and Russia called for stability.

Asked if he thought the movement would spread across the Arab world, Shetty said: "Every dictator in the Middle East is going to be much more careful. There are protests in Yemen, in Jordan, in Algeria as we speak."

Banners flying over the rally included one which had a picture of Mubarak wearing the hat of a pharaoh, the rulers of ancient Egypt, and the slogan: "You're historic."

"I'm getting updates from my family (in Cairo). They are telling me how they are proud and ready for the next step," said demonstrator Racha Zahdan.

In Australia, hundreds of people including tearful members of the Egyptian community danced and chanted at rallies in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane just hours after the president's dramatic resignation.

"On the 25th of January, the Internet generation, our generation, said 'enough'," Nour Eldin Tarraf, from the Sydney Egyptian Revolution Solidarity Committee, told the crowd in Sydney, referring to the initial protest.

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib, who is Egyptian-born, attended the Sydney rally and called for prison terms for Mubarak and his supporters. Habib was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and released without charge in 2005.

In Washington, more than 100 Egyptians chanted and danced outside the Egyptian embassy late Friday, as some waved Egyptian flags and Arabic music was played in the streets.

"It worked out and we've come here to celebrate," said Hana Elhattab, a young Egyptian woman who attended several demonstrations in Washington in recent weeks.

One banner paid tribute to US President Barack Obama, the media and social networks that have been credited with helping the democracy movement in Egypt.

"Thank you Facebook, Obama, CNN, Al-Jazeera, (CNN host) Anderson Cooper, (Google executive) Wael Ghonim, USA," it read.

Dozens of activists gathered in the Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona where some handed out leaflets urging support for protests across the region.

In Paris, around 25 people rallied near the Eiffel Tower.

About 100 Egyptians and other activists also rallied outside the Egyptian embassy in Brussels.

"The fall of Mubarak is only the first step," said Ruth Dhondt, a Belgian who backed the protests.

Amnesty said there were also rallies in Benin, Canada, Germany, Mali, Norway, South Korea and Switzerland.

© 2011 AFP

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