Egypt to lift Mubarak emergency law before polling

AP News
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Posted: Aug 11, 2011 2:25 PM
Egypt to lift Mubarak emergency law before polling

Egypt's government said Thursday it plans to lift the country's hated emergency law before democratic parliamentary elections later this year.

The law, imposed in 1981, gave ousted President Hosni Mubarak's security forces wide powers to arrest and detain Egyptians without charge. Lifting the law has been a key demand of the protesters behind Egypt's uprising earlier this year.

Government spokesman Mohammed Hegazy told reporters Thursday that lifting the emergency law will "prepare for fair and free elections."

No specific date has been set for the parliamentary elections. Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Shaheen, a member of the ruling military council that took over after Mubarak's ouster said Thursday that registration of candidates will start at the end of September and that elections will take place in stages, in November and December.

Mubarak stepped down and transferred power to the military council on Feb. 11, after an 18-day mass uprising.

The emergency law allowed for random arrests, prolonged detentions without charges, and widespread human rights abuses that plagued the country during Mubarak's 29-year rule.

However, rights abuses have continued under the current military rulers.

In the months following Mubarak's ouster, rights activists have decried continued police brutality, the use of so-called virginity tests on detained women activists and military tribunals for civilians. There have also been repeated military crackdowns on peaceful protests .

Since early August, military troops backed by anti-riot police have occupied Tahrir square in Cairo, the epicenter of the uprising that toppled Mubarak, sending a clear message with the clampdown that the military council will not tolerate any more large public gatherings.

Most recently, Egyptian army troops wielding batons and firing into the air on Aug. 5 dispersed dozens of activists holding a traditional evening meal in Tahrir that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Nearly 900 Egyptian protesters were killed in the uprising.