Middle East
Egyptians rally against emergency laws
Hundreds in Tahrir Square condemn ruling military council's decision to expand Mubarak-era legislation.
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2011 12:22
Following the attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo, the military council said it will enforce emergency law [Reuters]

Hundreds of people have gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest against the recent expansion of the Egypt's emergency law, amid palpable anger over the military's handling of transition from autocratic rule.

Imam Gomaa Mohammed, delivering the Muslim noon prayer sermon on Friday, called on the authorities "to repeal the law immediately and also to end the military trial of civilians".

"The application of the emergency law totally contradicts the demands of the revolution" that toppled Mubarak in February following 18 days of mass nationwide rallies, Mohammed said.

Earlier this week, following a violent attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo and attempts to storm security buildings, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) said it would enforce the Emergency Law at least until the end of this year, on articles relating to the spreading of misinformation, arms possession and interfering with traffic.

At least 33 political groups and movements had announced they would take part in the protest in Tahrir Square, which had been the focal point of demonstrations over the past eight months.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya did not take part in the rally.

Al Jazeera's Sherin Tadros reporting from Cairo said: "Although a lot of the political forces agree that something should be done about [the] emergency law, only some of them decided that the thing that should be done is to come out to Tahrir and protest today."

"The Muslim Brotherhood and other important political groups and factions in the country said that what is needed is a coordinated response and for a mass protest to take place at the end of the month on September 30.

"There are various manifestations of the anger over here right now to do with the emergency law, but we do not expect [today's protest] to get out of hand."

Protesters have rallied to press SCAF to rescind its recent decision to expand the Mubarak-era emergency laws, to set a timetable to hand power to a civilian administration and to prevent members of the National Democratic Party, the disbanded former ruling party, from taking part in parliamentary elections scheduled for November.

Lifting the emergency law, which gave security forces unlimited powers for 30 years in Egypt during Hosni Mubarak's rule, was one of the demands of protesters who took to the streets across Egypt earlier this year calling for the toppling of Mubarak.

Following Mubarak's resignation on February 11, SCAF pledged  that the country's emergency law will be lifted, but only "as soon as current circumstances end".

Amnesty International, the UK-based rights group, condemned on Thursday the recent expansion of the law as a "serious erosion of human rights."

"The military authorities have essentially taken Egypt's laws back to the bad old days," Philip Luther, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said.

"These changes are a major threat to the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and the right to strike.

"We are  looking at the most serious erosion of human rights in Egypt since Mubarak stepped down."

Luther said that not only must SCAF repeal these amendments, "they need to end the state of emergency altogether, as they promised upon taking power in February".

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