CAIRO: Twenty political groups have signed a joint statement condemning the request to renew Egypt’s state of emergency for another two years, submitted to parliament by the ruling National Democratic Party on Tuesday.
Muslim Brotherhood MPs and members of the Ghad and Karama political parties took part in a demonstration outside the People’s Assembly Tuesday to coincide with parliamentary session during which the extension of the state of emergency — continually in force since 1981 — was scheduled to be debated.
Members of the April 6 Youth Movement, socialist groups and the National Coalition for Change held up posters reading, “The State of Emergency: 30 years of Egypt’s imprisonment.”
In spite of the heavy security around parliament, Tuesday’s demonstration, unlike those in previous weeks, went peacefully with about 60 protestors present.
The joint statement condemns the state of emergency as a “grave danger to all of society” adding that it has “paralyzed all forms of political life.”
“Claims that the emergency law is used to fight terrorism is a lie; over the years it has been used both against political opponents and to prop up the incumbent regime,” the statement reads.
A decree issued on the state of emergency issued by President Hosni Mubarak Tuesday limits application of the emergency law to terrorism and narcotics trafficking offences, and restricts the exceptional powers available to security bodies.
The National Democratic Party said in a press statement on Tuesday that the government has “consistently abided by its pledge to safeguard civil liberties and political rights” and that the decree “codifies the government’s political commitment in the form of statutory limitations.”
In February, during an examination of Egypt’s human rights record by the United Nations Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, the government pledged to put an end to the state of emergency.
While the government says that emergency law powers have only ever been used in narcotics and terrorism cases, political groups and human rights bodies assert that the exceptional powers of arrest and detention enjoyed by security bodies under the emergency law are used by the government to target political opponents.
“The intention of the state of emergency is to threaten and terrify all opposition political activity,” said Hassan Nafaa from the National Coalition for Change.
Kefaya leader Abdel-Halim Qandil told reporters that, “This regime knows very well that the state of emergency has nothing to do with the drugs which have spread throughout society during the life of the emergency law.
“It knows very well that terrorism with the meaning of direct violence ended in Egypt more than 10 years ago. This regime considers political activity a form of terrorism.”
The Kefaya leader added that, “there will be no end to the state of emergency without an end to Mubarak’s rule.”
Qandil also called on political parties to boycott the elections saying that, “An end to the dictatorship of the Mubarak family is a precondition for free and fair elections.”
Ayman Nour of the Ghad party said that, “This regime could not survive for a single day without this notorious law,” while MP and Muslim Brotherhood member Gamal Zahran told reporters that, “The government proves everyday that it is a lying, failure of a government.
“Every time it renews the state of emergency the prime minister tells the people that it will be the last time it is renewed.”
AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI