Army lifts three decades-old state of emergency in Egypt


Egypt’s decades-long state of emergency came to an end on Thursday after its last renewal expired, the ruling military said in a statement, vowing to continue to “protect” the nation, reported AFP.

The military will continue its “national and historic responsibility, taking into account that the state of emergency has ended, in accordance with the constitutional declaration and with the law,” it said.

Egypt has been under a state of emergency since president Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1981, allowing authorities to detain people without charge and try them in emergency security courts.

Parliament renewed the emergency law for two years in May 2010 when now ousted president Hosni Mubarak was still in power, but limited its application to terrorism and drug crimes.

The military, which took charge after Mubarak’s overthrow in February 2011, at first extended the law to include strikes but then said it would apply only to “thuggery” according to a report by AFP.

A constitutional declaration ratified in a referendum in March last year gave the military the responsibility to “protect” the country but said only parliament had the right to proclaim a state of emergency, at the executive’s request.

The military had suspended the constitution after Mubarak’s overthrow.

Essam Erian, the deputy leader of the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party, which has the most seats in parliament, told AFP the military’s statement indicated it would not ask parliament to extend the law.

Fears of an extension

Earlier there were speculations on the possibility of another extension and concerns about the stance of the Islamist-dominated parliament.

According to observers, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing the Freedom and Justice Party will be subject to harsh criticism in case the parliament proposes an extension to the law, especially in the light of the remarkable drop in the group’s popularity following the performance of its members in the lower house of parliament, the People’s Assembly.

The stance of Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi in case he wins the elections was also brought into question. Mursi’s campaign was quick to respond and stress that in case Mursi becomes president, he will never seek an extension for the emergency law.

“Mursi has no intention to extend the emergency law and there is no need for doing that in the first place,” Yasser Ali, the spokesman of Mursi’s presidential campaign told the Egyptian daily independent al-Watan.

Ali said that with the fierce competition between Mursi and Hosni Mubarak’s former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, both of whom have reached the run-off, the first will stir clear of anything that the second represents by virtue of being an integral part of the former regime and a potential replication of all its repressive practices.

Ali quoted Mursi as saying that proper application of the penal code is enough to guarantee the prevalence of security in the Egyptian street.

“Then there will be no need for such a notorious law.”

As for security during election time, Ali said that this can be done through the police working at full force.

“We will never go back. Citizens will no longer be subject to detention without justification,” Ali concluded.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)