Egypt to lift ’controversial’ state of emergency in 2008

Egypt to lift ’controversial’ state of emergency in 2008

Egypt will lift by next June the state of emergency in place for more than 25 years, even if new anti-terrorist legislation is not passed, Judicial Affairs Minister Mufid Shehab was quoted yesterday as saying. “Whether the law on terrorism is passed by this date or not, the government will lift the state of emergency by the end of June 2008,” Shehab said, according to state news agency Mena. The new legislation is set to be presented to the National Assembly before that date, he added.

During presidential elections in 2005, President Hosni Mubarak pledged to lift the state of emergency, but a year later said it would remain in force until new anti-terrorism legislation was passed. The state of emergency was first proclaimed in 1967. It was briefly lifted in 1980 for eighteen months, before being re-imposed after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by Islamist militants. Opposition parties and non-governmental organizations fear that any new legislation will also attack human right

Last March, rights group Amnesty International criticized an amendment to the constitution, proposed by Mubarak, that would enable the authorities to arrest suspects, search their homes, intercept their mail and eavesdrop their conversations without a judicial mandate. Egypt has also been slammed at home and abroad over recent revelations of torture in police stations, and has routinely been criticized for its arbitrary arrests of dissidents and restrictions on civil society.

In another development, human rights group Amnesty International said it had written to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urging him to allow independent observers to attend the military trial of 40 Muslim Brotherhood members. “We look to President Mubarak, as Egypt”s highest authority, to open the doors to this important trial,” Amnesty”s Secretary General Irene Khan said in a statement late on Friday. “He should clear the way for it to receive the scrutiny it deserves,” Khan said. The trial is set to resu
me today.

Egyptian authorities have barred observers from international and local human rights groups, including Amnesty International and US-based Human Rights Watch, from attending the previous court sessions. The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt”s biggest opposition force. The government says the Brotherhood is banned but the group operates openly. The 40 members, among them the Brotherhood”s third-in-command Khairat El-Shatir, face charges that include money laundering and terrorism. They deny any wrongdoing. Milita
ry trials in Egypt are usually held behind closed doors and attendance requires a permit from the court. Many analysts say the trial is an escalation of a government crackdown against the non-violent group which won a fifth of the seats in parliament in 2005. They say authorities want to stop the Brotherhood from making more electoral gains that could help it mount a serious threat to the rule of Mubarak, Egypt”s longest-serving ruler since the Albanian-born Mohamed Ali Pasha in the 19th century. – Agencie