The joining of the judiciary branch to the uprising appeared to be a critical moment, said Barbara Ibrahim, the founding director of the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo.
For Mrs. Ibrahim, the moment symbolized hope for a lawful, orderly transition of power, rather than the type of revolution that led to the rule by Islamic extremists in Iran three decades ago.
"I will point out that this is a group of judges who've been speaking out about corruption," Ibrahim said. "The fact that they are back out on the streets after years of being in fear of the government is evidence in itself that the people are winning."
Ibrahim is the wife of Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a prominent Egyptian human rights activist and scholar who was imprisoned in 2000 after speaking out against President Hosni Mubarak. She spoke to The Washington Examiner from her home in Egypt Monday. "The Egyptian people have stood up against Mubarak and refused to be intimidated," she said. "I am not afraid of anything anymore. We have a group of Egypt's senior judges coming out to demonstrate after the curfew...This is not about the Muslim Brotherhood, this is about the people of Egypt who are fed up."
Two of the judges joining the protest late Sunday were Hesham Bastawisi and Mahmoud Mekky, who faced charges in 2006 for violating judiciary rules when they openly protested against what they said was the Mubarak regime's fraud in the 2005 Egyptian elections.
American officials are fearful that the Egyptian uprising will lead to an Iran-like state controlled by Islamic extremists rather than a secular democracy.
The 450,000-man Egyptian Army, armed over the years from more than $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aide, could create massive headaches for the U.S. in the region if it were controlled by Islamic extremists.
But Ibrahim said the fear of a fundamentalist state emerging in Egypt is misplaced.
"The best scenario, and the one being discussed now in Egypt, is a transition government where there is work on a new constitution and a move to legalize the politically outlawed parties so everyone has a voice," she said. "The unknown factor is whether the army will support that process, and my feeling is that the army is with the people's revolution."
Westerners underestimate the desire by her fellow Egyptians to avoid the kind of restrictive government they see in Iran, Ibrahim said. "Egyptians by nature are a very moderate people," she said. "Egyptians are a religious people but they want their music, their life. If anything, the Muslim Brotherhood has been weakened -- they will have a voice in the new government but they will not be the voice of the Egyptian people."
The Muslim Brotherhood was seeking to join forces with Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog and outspoken opponent to Mubarak, to speak with Army officials, according to Reuters.
The Examiner spoke with Ali ElBaradei on Monday. He is Mohamed's brother and works closely with him on political matters. Asked about any negotiations that might be occurring between his brother and the Muslim Brotherhood, he said, "I have been in meetings all day regarding the situations." But he would not go into detail about any talks involving his brother.
"We are in the course of discussions about forming a broad committee for political issues with Dr. ElBaradei that reflects the will of the people and that would negotiate with the army," Essam el-Erian, of the Muslim Brotherhood, told Reuters on Monday.
For Mubarak, 82, one reliable remaining power base is the country's air force, which he has supplied with fairly modern U.S. fighter jets. His career started in the air force, and in 1972, he became commander of that branch as well as Egypt's deputy minister of defense.
What isn't clear is whether the army will also stick with Mubarak. One Egyptian official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the army "is on the same page as air force commanders who still support Mubarak."
Ibrahim said, "The air force, which did fly-bys over the Tahrir Square over the weekend, may have been signaling and sending a message to the army, not necessarily to the protesters."
Sara A. Carter is The Washington Examiner's national security correspondent. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.