Egypt's military council lifts decades-old state of emergency


EGYPT’S RULING military council yesterday declared the lifting of the 31-year-old state of emergency imposed after the assassination of president Anwar El-Sadat in 1981.

The law was the means by which the regime of deposed president Hosni Mubarak maintained its grip on power. Tens of thousands of regime opponents, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis, liberals and leftists were jailed under the law which gave the security apparatus the authority to arrest and detain suspects.

The proclamation is unlikely, however, to mollify Egyptians angered over the victory in the first round of the presidential election of Muslim fundamentalist Mohamed Mursi and former air force chief Ahmad Shafiq, both seen as representatives of the old order.

Revolutionaries had called for an end to martial law following the fall of president Mubarak more than 15 months ago, but the generals dropped some articles in the law while retaining, embellishing and extending others, specifically to apply them to crimes involving drugs and “thuggery”.

Commentators reacted negatively when the council said the army would continue to provide security for the country until the end of this month when the new president is scheduled to take office.

Bolstering the call by the people’s assembly, now dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-orthodox Sunni Salafis, Human Rights Watch called on the interior ministry to release all prisoners still being held under the emergency law and to shift trials being conducted under its provisions to civilian courts.

At least 12,000 Egyptians, many political dissidents, were tried and sentenced by military courts following the uprising, 188 under the emergency law.

The verdict in the trial of Mubarak and his two sons over the killing of 846 protesters during the uprising is due tomorrow.