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Egypt's Tantawi to Partially Lift State of Emergency Wednesday

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), in Cairo, Egypt, December 22, 2011.

Egyptian military ruler Mohamed Hussein Tantawi says he will partially lift the country's 30-year-long state of emergency, beginning on Wednesday. Egypt has been under pressure to lift the measure from human rights groups as well as many countries, including the United States.

In a nationally televised address Tuesday, Field Marshal Tantawi said he decided to lift the state of emergency except in cases of fighting acts of "thuggery." He did not elaborate.

Egyptians have lived continuously under emergency law since Islamists assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981. The law was extended repeatedly during the near-30 year rule of his successor, Hosni Mubarak, and remained in force under the Tantawi-led military council that took over from Mubarak in a popular uprising last February.

The widely-disliked emergency law allows Egyptian authorities to ban public gatherings, detain people indefinitely without charge and put civilians on trial in military courts that rights groups say do not meet international standards of fairness.

Field Marshal Tantawi's military council expanded the scope of the law last year to prohibit labor strikes, demonstrations that disrupt traffic and the spreading of false information deemed harmful to national security.

He made the announcement a day after Egypt's newly-elected lower house of parliament held its first meeting since the uprising that ousted Mubarak, with Islamist lawmakers dominating the assembly.

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

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