News / Africa

Egypt Moves to End Decades-Old Emergency Law

Egypt's government says it has begun procedures to end the country's three-decade-old state of emergency, a key demand in the protests that led to former president Hosni Mubarak's ouster earlier this year.

Government spokesman Mohammed Hegazy said Thursday the Cabinet has started "formulating laws and mechanisms" that would replace the emergency decree.  The measure gives law enforcement officers sweeping powers to make arrests and hold detainees for long periods of time without charge.  He noted that lifting the emergency law will prepare for fair and free parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year.

Mr. Mubarak imposed the measure shortly after he became president, following the 1981 assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat.

In April, Amnesty International called the state of emergency a "corrosive system of administrative detentions."  The rights group said it had resulted in "tens of thousands of people" being detained for months or years without charges being filed.

The former Egyptian leader, his two sons, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six of his aides, are on trial on charges of corruption and ordering police to kill anti-government protesters.

The 83-year-old Mubarak and al-Adly face possible death sentences if convicted of unleashing police on the demonstrators that drove them from office during an 18-day uprising in February.  At least 840 people were killed during the upheaval.

Mr. Mubarak's sons, Gamal and Alaa, are accused of corruption.  Their father is also facing charges of stealing millions of dollars of state money.

The trial, held in Cairo's Convention Center, is open to the public under heavy security and carried on Egyptian state television.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters..

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