CAIRO — Activists vowed to crank up pressure on Egypt's generals on Friday, a day after a court ordered the release of three American students arrested during the unrest in Cairo.
Demonstrators plan an overwhelming show of people power to cap almost a week of protests against army rule that have left 41 people dead.
State media said the army leaders picked a political veteran in his late 70s to form a national salvation government, a choice that was quickly snubbed by many of the young activists who have led the demonstrations in Tahrir Square.
Kamal Ganzouri agreed in principle to lead the new government after meeting the head of the military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the website of state newspaper Al Ahram reported, citing sources close to Ganzouri.
As talk of a Ganzouri appointment filtered through the crowds thronging Tahrir on Thursday night, discussion quickly focused on his age.
"Ganzouri is no good for this transitional period, which needs youth leaders not grandparents," said student Maha Abdullah.
Freedom ordered for US students
Meantime, freedom was expected for three Americans who attend the American University in Cairo. Derrik Sweeney, a 19-year-old Georgetown University student, Luke Gates, a 21-year-old Indiana University student, and Gregory Porter, a 19-year-old Drexel University student, were arrested on Sunday on the American University roof near Tahrir Square where they were allegedly throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters.
Attorney Theodore Simon, who represents Porter, from a Philadelphia suburb, said his client remained in custody at a police station as of Thursday afternoon Eastern time.Video: Protesters throw stones, conflict grows in Cairo (on this page)
But Simon said he was able to speak by phone with Porter, describing the student's demeanor as "calm and measured, demonstrating a maturity well beyond his 19 years."
"He was extremely thankful and appreciative for our efforts and the unconditional support of his mother and father," Simon said.
Sweeney's mother, Joy Sweeney, said she is "absolutely elated" at the news of her 19-year-old son's release.
"I can't wait to give him a huge hug and tell him how much I love him," she said, adding that the news of the court order was the best Thanksgiving gift.
Meanwhile an American film maker and journalist was arrested by Egyptian police while documenting clashes in Tahrir Square, she told a colleague by phone.
Karim Amer, the producer for Jehane Nojaim — an award-winning film maker of Egyptian ancestry who is best-known for her al-Jazeera TV documentary "Control Room" — said Nojaim was detained and her camera was confiscated.
Amer said he was separated from her after they both fled from tear gas.
Egyptian-American columnist and activist Mona Eltahawy, who regularly appears on news channels as a self-described "speaker on Arab and Muslim issues" was also reportedly arrested in Cairo.
"Beaten arrested in interior ministry," she posted on her Twitter account overnight.
She tweeted "I AM FREE" at about 5:30 a.m. ET, and then sent several messages saying she had been beaten and sexually assaulted, using strong language to condemn the Egyptian police.
She also said her right hand was "so swollen I can't close it." She posted a picture of her hand. She tweeted she was being taken to hospital.
The U.S. Department of State tweeted early Thursday that it was aware of the reports that Nojaim and Elthawy had been arrested and said the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was "engaging authorities."
Egypt's military also issued a statement on Thursday apologizing for the loss of life and vowing to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of protesters in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square and elsewhere in the country.
Slideshow: Protests continue in Egypt (on this page)
Army troops have used metal bars and barbed wire to build barricades to separate the protesters and the police on side streets leading from Tahrir to the nearby Interior Ministry. Most of the fighting has been taking place on those side streets.
A truce came into force around 6 a.m. and was still holding late Thursday.
In a communique, protesters called the million-man march on "the Friday of the last chance" for the army to hand over power.
The Egyptian Independent Trade Union Federation called for a workers' march to Tahrir. Another labor rights group called for a general strike to back the protests. Labour unions played an important role in the movement that toppled Mubarak.
Supporters of the army council had said they would hold a rally to back the military. In a statement on its Facebook page, the army council said it was "appealing to them to cancel the demonstration," saying it wanted to avoid divisions.
Suspicion that the army will continue to wield power behind an elected civilian administration has grown in recent weeks as the government and political parties tussled over the shape of a new constitution.
The military council originally promised to return to barracks within six months of the fall of Mubarak, but then set a timetable for elections and drawing up the constitution that would have left it in power until late next year or early 2013.
The Associated Press, Reuters and NBC News contributed to this report.