Egyptian MPs stage walkout

Protest over constitutional changes that opposition says could lead to police state.

    Critics say the proposed amendments will further erode people's rights in Egypt [AP]
    AI, the international rights group based in London, said the changes would also allow the monitoring of private communications and enable Egypt's president to bypass ordinary courts for people suspected of terrorism.
     
    Referendum
     
    The parliament, dominated by Mubarak's ruling party, is expected to pass the 34 amendments, which would go to a referendum.
     
    Egypt's opposition has already denounced the changes as "opening the way to a police state".
     
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    The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's main opposition, has said it will boycott the vote.
     
    Other opposition parties have said they will vote against the proposals that the government calls "reforms".
     
    Describing the reaction to the proposed amendments, Amr El-Kahky, Al Jazeera's Cairo correspondent, said this was "the first time in modern history that all opposition groups have come to an understanding".
     
    The measures are expected to make it more difficult for the opposition to field candidates as the system would be based on party lists.
     

    The amendments could make it impossible for members of Islamic groups to seek the Egyptian presidency as they could ban political activities based "on any religious reference or basis".

     
    Rights violations
     
    The government argues that the amendments will enable the state of emergency, in place since the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat, the previous president, to be lifted.
     
    AI rejected the argument and said in a statement the changes would "give the misuse of those powers a bogus legitimacy".
     
    With such powers, the president is likely to "bypass ordinary courts and refer people suspected of terrorism to military and special courts where they are unlikely to receive fair trials", AI said.
     
    The amendments "write into the permanent law emergency-style powers that have been used to violate human rights over more than two decades", AI said.
     
    In an interview published on Saturday with Akhbar Al-Youm, a government newspaper, Mubarak defended the amendments.
     
    He said the reforms were "meant to deal with terrorism-related crimes only, through judiciary channels, and the judicial authority".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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