Protesters prepare for global day of action against Egypt's military junta

Jack Shenker, the Guardian

Protesters in more than 20 cities worldwide are preparing to take action against Egypt's military junta, as part of a global day of solidarity to "defend the Egyptian revolution".

Rallies and marches have been scheduled across four continents for Saturday following an appeal from Cairo-based activists who accuse army generals of launching a systematic crackdown on human rights in an effort to crush political change in the aftermath of this year's uprising, which toppled President Hosni Mubarak and left a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) in his place.

In New York the Occupy Wall Street movement will demonstrate outside the Egyptian mission to the UN, while in Oakland, California, protesters will gather at a local detention facility to highlight the plight of pro-change Egyptian activists imprisoned through military tribunals run by the junta. In London, those who have set up camp outside St Paul's Cathedral will launch a "tour of shame" targeting arms companies who accompanied David Cameron on a trip to revolutionary Egypt back in February, while similar events are planned in ParisFrankfurt, Manila and Montreal.

"If the mainstream media would have us believe that the Egyptian revolution has happened and that the freedom of the Egyptian people is being respected, quite the contrary is true," said the organisers of Occupy London. "The arms companies we will be visiting and shaming are in bed with Cameron in order to profit from the ongoing repression and murders happening right now in Egypt. These companies are also the ones providing the tools of repression [against] all the solidarity and protest movements around the world."

The US government has resisted calls to put pressure on Egypt's military – which enjoys a close financial relationship with the Pentagon – to speed up the timetable for democratic reform.

"The administration believes that putting conditions on our assistance to Egypt is the wrong approach, and Secretary [Hillary] Clinton has made this point strongly," said Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, at a recent meeting.

"Egypt is a pivotal country in the Middle East and a long-time partner of the United States. We have continued to rely on Egypt to support and advance US interests in the region … conditioning assistance risks putting our relations with Egypt in a contentious place at the worst possible moment."

Saturday's protests come amid the release of a new video purporting to show further evidence of military involvement in the violence that erupted at a Coptic rally in downtown Cairo on 9 October, which left at least 27 people dead. The clashes took place against a backdrop of multiple human rights abuses by the authorities which have driven a wedge between army generals and revolutionaries in recent months.

That division has been exacerbated by the recent arrest of Alaa Abd El Fattah, a leading revolutionary who is among those accused by military prosecutors of inciting the bloodshed on 9 October.

His mother has completed her first week of a hunger strike in protest against her son's incarceration; human rights groups estimate that more than 12,000 civilians have been processed through military courts in the nine months since Mubarak's fall, many times more than were prosecuted throughout his three-decade dictatorship.

On Friday, the UN human rights agency called for the release of Abd El Fattah. Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN high commissioner on human rights, said he was "concerned about what appears to be a diminishing public space for freedom of expression and association" in Egypt.

"Scaf have repeatedly attacked the Egyptian people, but the [9 October] Maspero massacre displayed violence and viciousness of a different magnitude, and repression on a dictatorial level," Omar Robert Hamilton, an film-maker with the Mosireen collective, which made the new video, and is also Abd El Fattah's cousin, told the Guardian. "We have a duty to get the truth out, especially when state television is pumping out poisonous lies."

Lobna Darwish, an activist who was present at those clashes, said: "In October the junta ran us over with tanks and shot us down in the street while manipulating state media to incite sectarian violence. The military is trying to entrench its power while weakening the revolutionary forces that ousted Mubarak. But we are still fighting for our revolution."

On Friday thousands of Coptic Christians and their supporters marched from Cairo's central cathedral to Tahrir Square to commemorate the Maspero deaths.

Later this month the first phase of voting will begin in a three-month election period that will see a parliament formed and tasked with writing a new constitution. But under the military's current plans army generals will retain executive power until well into 2013, and recent moves by Scaf to shape the new constitution in a way that would entrench army control over civilian politics have prompted an outcry among political parties, some of whom are now considering a boycott of the poll.