RealNews

Analysis: Egypt renews emergency statute

Late at night and unannounced by the media, Egypt’s parliament renewed for another three years its Emergency Law, which restricts freedoms and gives great leeway to security forces to arrest suspects. The renewal Sunday of martial law, which has been in force since 1981, took democracy activists by surprise as they had expected the law to be renewed in May, when it was set to expire. A lengthy campaign to limit the law’s scope and duration had been planned. “We were preparing a demonstration on March 9 and gathering signatures from many thousands of people asking to end martial law in Egypt,” said Hussein Abdel Razeq, a senior member of the leftist Tagammu party and leader of a coalition of political parties against the law. The government justified renewal of the law on the grounds it was needed to combat drug dealers and terrorists — the same reason that it has been invoked for 22 years. On Monday, Prime Minister Atef Ebeid affirmed that the law aims “to protect the country against its enemies and protect citizens against those that want to harm them.” Most political activists and opposition party members scoff at these claims and blame the moribund nature of political life in Egypt on martial law. Citing the lack of terrorist incidents or drug crimes, they suggest it has more to do with government fear over popular opposition to an expected U.S.-led war on Iraq. Full Story

OODA Analyst

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