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0 Freed young leader energizes Egyptian protests

CAIRO (AP) - A young leader of Egypt's anti-government protesters, newly released from detention, joined a massive crowd of hundreds of thousands in Cairo's Tahrir Square for the first time Tuesday, greeted by cheers, whistling and thunderous applause when he declared: "We will not abandon our demand and that is the departure of the regime."
Many in the crowd said they were inspired by Wael Ghonim, the 30-year-old Google Inc. marketing manager who was a key organizer of the online campaign that sparked the first protest on Jan. 25 to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Straight from his release from 12 days of detention, Ghonim gave an emotionally charged television interview Monday night where he sobbed over those who have been killed in two weeks of clashes.
Egyptian Wael Ghonim, a Google Inc. marketing manager, talks at his home in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb.7, 2011. A Google manager held in Egypt for about 10 days over anti-government protests was freed Monday. 
He spoke softly and briefly to the huge crowd from a stage, starting by offering his condolences to the families of those killed.
"I'm not a hero but those who were martyred are the heroes," he said, then breaking into a chant of "Mubarak leave, leave."
When he finished speaking, the crowd erupted in cheering, whistling and deafening applause.
In his first television interview Monday night, Ghonim dubbed the protests "the revolution of the youth of the Internet" and proclaimed defiantly: "We are not traitors."
He arrived in the square when it was packed shoulder-to-shoulder, a crowd comparable in size to the biggest demonstration so far that drew a quarter-million people.
The turnout gave a resounding answer to the question of whether the protesters still have momentum even though two weeks of steadfast pressure have not achieved their goal of ousting Mubarak.
"The (Wael) interview showed a face of the truth which the state media tried to cover up for so long," said retired Army General Essam Salem. "Many people are coming because they saw the truth."
Fifi Shawqi, a 33-year-old upper-class housewife who came with her three daughters and her sister to the Tahrir protest for the first time, said Ghonim inspired her.
"I saw Wael yesterday (in the interview) and I cried. I felt like he is my son and all the youth here are my sons," she said. "I think Wael brought many, many more."
Others in the crowd said they too were joining for the first time.
"I know many people who came here for the first time after they were impressed by Wael and the pictures of the martyrs," said Iman Ibrahim, a 40-year-old, upper-class housewife.
Ghonim has emerged as a rallying point for protesters, who reject a group of traditional Egyptian opposition groups that have met with the government amid the most sweeping concessions the regime has made in its three decades in power.
The protesters are insisting that no concessions will do unless Mubarak steps down.

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