A Google executive’s tearful account of his detention by security forces moved more Egyptians to protest yesterday.
Egyptians staged one of their biggest protests yet on Tuesday demanding President Hosni Mubarak step down now, their wrath undiminished by the vice president's announcement of a plan to transfer power.
Protesters, many moved by a Google executive's tearful account of his detention by security forces, poured into Cairo's Tahrir Square to pack a space that can hold a quarter of a million people.
Freed Google executive Wael Ghonim addressed the cheering crowd.
"You are the heroes. I am not a hero, you are the heroes," said Ghonim, who broke down as he described being blindfolded during 12 days of detention.
Ghonim has for now at least been thrust to the forefront of a protest movement that has yet to produce a leader. Activists say Ghonim was behind a Facebook group that helped to inspire the wave of protests. His interview also appears to have persuaded many Egyptians to side with the demonstrations.
"Ghonim's tears have moved millions and turned around the views of those who supported (Mubarak) staying," website Masrawy.com wrote two hours after the interview. In that short span, 70,000 people signed up to Facebook pages supporting him.
Later Ghonim expressed his sorrow for the victims of the violence that has claimed an estimated 300 lives.
"I saw young people dying and now the President has a responsibility to see what the people demand.”
Google had launched a service to help Egyptians circumvent government restrictions on using the social network Twitter, enabling them to dial a telephone number and leave a voice mail that would then be sent on the online service.
The state news agency said 34 political prisoners had been released, the first to be set free since Mubarak promised reforms to quell the popular uprising.
Protesters completely filled Tahrir Square for the third time since the demonstrations began on 25 January.
"I came here for the first time today because this cabinet is a failure, Mubarak is still meeting the same ugly faces," said Afaf Naged, 71, a former member of the board of directors of the state-owned National Bank of Egypt. "He can't believe it is over. He is a very stubborn man," she said.