Egypt extends emergency law for 2 more years
|Tuesday, May 27,2008 13:44|
|By Mohamed Abdellah|
The Egyptian parliament, at the request of the government, on Monday extended emergency law for two years until mid-2010 or until anti-terrorism legislation has been drawn up to replace it.
The law, in force since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, allows the authorities to hold people without charge for long periods and refer civilians to military courts, where defendants have fewer rights.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said in his request to parliament that the sole purpose of emergency law was to combat terrorism. The opposition and rights groups say the government uses the law to silence political dissidents.
Three hundred and five members voted in favour of the extension, requested by Nazif earlier in the day, and 103 voted against it. Parliament is dominated by the National Democratic Party, which holds more than two thirds of the seats.
The opponents included the Muslim Brotherhood, which has 87 members of parliament and has long campaigned for abolition of emergency law, one of the tools the authorities have used in successive crackdowns on the Islamist movement.
Explaining his request in a statement, Nazif said the authorities had not had time to prepare an anti-terrorism law which they were confident would stand the test of time.
"Ordinary laws are not sufficient to resist terrorism and so the government has asked for an extension," Nazif added.
"The government does not want to operate under exceptional conditions but it wants to achieve development and stability in a safe and stable climate," he said.
Saad Katatny, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood group in parliament, said the government"s explanation for its request was feeble. "The aim of the emergency law is to protect corruption and the corrupt," he told Reuters.
"We think that applying emergency law has not prevented any crime and under the shadow of the law human rights have been violated," the Islamist member of parliament said.
Rights groups say that, under emergency law, some detainees have been in custody for more than 10 years without trial or charge. They expect the same practices to continue when a anti-terrorism law is passed.
Victims of emergency law have included senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood, convicted in military courts of charges which the authorities have not yet published. The Brotherhood, Egypt"s strongest opposition group, advocates establishing an Islamic state through non-violent and democratic means.
The government said two years ago it would introduce an anti-terrorism bill before the emergency law expires on June 1. But it has not yet distributed a draft of it.
The proposal to replace emergency law was one of President Hosni Mubarak"s promises during his re-election campaign in 2005. It came up again in the debate on constitutional changes approved by a referendum last year.
In the Nile Delta town of Kafr Saqr police detained two Muslim Brotherhood men on Monday accused of belonging to a banned group, security and Brotherhood sources said.
At least one of them had tried but failed to register for local elections earlier this year, they added.