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Wael Ghonim, Google executive, buoys protests in Cairo

Protesters buoyed by the release of Wael Ghonim, a cyber activist and Google executive, are holding mass demonstrations against the rule of Hosni Mubarak for a 15th day in Cairo.
Demonstrators have set up in makeshift tents in Tahrir Square in Ca

Protesters buoyed by the release of Wael Ghonim, a cyber activist and Google executive, are holding mass demonstrations against the rule of Hosni Mubarak for a 15th day in Cairo.

Demonstrators have set up in makeshift tents in Tahrir Square in Cairo and are refusing to leave until their demands are met — chiefly that Hosni Mubarak end his 30-year rule immediately.

In a new concession, the government on Monday announced a 15 percent hike in state administrative employee wages and military and civilian pensions beginning in April.

But the so-called pro-democracy camp in the Egyptian capital said the government had conceded little ground in trying to end the crisis.

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“[The pay rise] doesn’t mean anything,” Sherif Zein, a protester at Tahrir Square, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. “Maybe it will be a short-term release for the workers … but most of the people will realize what this is, it’s just a tablet of asprin, but it’s nothing meaningful.”

Protesters have consistently demanded that Mubarak resign, but his announcements to date indicate no intention to leave office until September, when his term expires.

Omar Suleiman, the country’s newly appointed vice president, announced on Tuesday that Mubarak would set up a committee that would carry out constitutional and legislative amendments to enable a shift of power.

Mubarak went publicly about government business Monday, meeting with his new cabinet for the first time, with the vice president, the speaker of parliament and the head of the appeals court.

The minister of finance, in an apparent effort to shore up public support for the regime, authorized the special bonus of 15 percent on salaries and pensions for government employees.

Monday evening brought a large influx of people to Tahrir Square, where there was a large communal sunset prayer, after which people congregated around one of three loudspeakers and listened to poets, folk singers, comics and soapbox political speeches.

Some joined the protest for the first time, saying they had been inspired in part by the release of Google executive Wael Ghonim, a Google senior executive who was responsible for setting up the Facebook page that mobilized the start of the protests, after what he said was two weeks of detention by state security authorities.

“I came here for the first time today because this cabinet is a failure, Mubarak is still meeting the same ugly faces … he can’t believe it is over. He is a very stubborn man,” Afaf Naged, 71, a former member of the board of directors of the state-owned National Bank of Egypt, told Reuters.

“I am also here because of Wael Ghonim. He was right when he said that the NDP is finished. There is no party left, but they don’t want to admit it,” she said, of Egypt’s ruling party.

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Amr Fatouh, 25, a surgeon, said it was his first time protesting at the square because of his hospital duties.

“I hope people will continue and more people will come. At first, people didn’t believe the regime would fall but that is changing,” he said.

Al Jazeera called the release of Ghonim “highly significant” and said it “could certainly push big numbers into this protest later on.”

“Protesters say [Ghonim] is potentially some sort of figurehead for them … they have been looking for a leader,” an Al Jazeera correspondent in Cairo said.

Ghonim, who was arrested by government authorities on Jan. 28, said Monday that he did not want to be seen as a hero.

Protesters have also cited government corruption as a reason they are demanding Mubarak’s ouster.

According to reports, Mubarak is likely the world’s richest man, with an estimated fortune of  $70 billion dollars.

And Egyptian press reported Monday that investigators were looking into the hidden wealth of Mubarak’s allies, which ranged from the $3 billion of party insider Ahmed Ezz to the $1.2 billion of former interior minister Habib Ibrahim El-Adly.

Five hated cronies of Mubarak each amassed fortunes topping $1 billion, according to military prosecutors preparing criminal cases again them in the latest government concession meant to defuse the two-week-old Egyptian crisis.

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Three of them, former Cabinet ministers, tried to flee the country over the weekend but were denied permission, Cairo airport sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt’s largest independent newspaper.