Egyptian MPs stage walkout

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

    Almost a quarter of Egypt's parliament walked out in protest at proposed constitutional changes [EPA]

    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.
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    But, 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".

    Mustafa al-Feki, a member of Egyptian parliament and chairman of the Egyptian People's Assembly foreign affairs committee, said: "Not all the opposition has left, but I'm not saying everything is rosy.


    "I wish the Muslim Brotherhood had insisted to stay and expressed their ideas and views.


    "Those who are already members of parliament have the right to say what they want, have it published and reject what they want to reject.


    "Democracy is a kind of balance between different kinds of groups."



    The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has a large enough majority of seats in the Egyptian parliament to pass the 34 amendments.


    The party has made the changes to allegedly stress citizenship as the main pillar of society as opposed to religion or ethnicity.


    But without the participation of most opposition parties, the NDP has been accused of lacking the moral authority to implement such changes.

    Egypt's opposition has already denounced the changes as "opening the way to a police state".
    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".

    Magdi al-Daqaq, editor of Al Helal magazine, questioned the kind of parliamentary proposals that would unite otherwise opposing parties.


    "I wonder how a right-wing party like the Wafd party strikes a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood. Or more astonishingly the Tagamma and other leftist parties get together with them today."


    Hamdin Sabbahi, Al Karama party leader, said: "We have at the same time to respect our common agenda which include exactly democracy and political freedoms in Egypt."


    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.

    Egyptians did not see the walkout from parliament because television cameras were banned.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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