Anti-government protests in Egypt continued for a fifth day Wednesday in-and around the iconic Tahrir Square in Cairo, despite concessions announced by the head of the ruling military council designed to ease discontent.
On Tuesday, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, pledged to speed the transition to civilian rule with presidential elections before July 2012.
But protesters were pressing their demand for the country's military rulers to step down immediately. At least 35 people have been killed during the past five days in clashes between security forces and protesters in Cairo and other main cities.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday urged Egyptian authorities to end what she called "clearly excessive force against protesters" called images of the brutal beatings of subdued protesters "deeply shocking."
Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities said Wednesday three American students arrested during protests in Cairo earlier this week are being questioned by local police in the presence of a lawyer and a U.S. embassy official.
Egyptian media report that the three, all students at American University in Cairo, were detained along with other protesters while throwing petrol bombs at police.
No formal charges have been brought against the students, who insisted they did nothing wrong.
Parliamentary elections are set to begin on Monday and Tantawi pledged the polls would go forward as planned. But many opposition leaders believe that to be increasingly doubtful.
In another apparent concession to demonstrators, the military council earlier issued a law that bans anyone convicted of corruption from running for office or holding a government position. The move could restrict members of ex-president Hosni Mubarak's former ruling party from competing in the upcoming elections.
Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Egypt's rulers of brutality sometimes exceeding that of Mr. Mubarak.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.