The United States and the European Union on Friday welcomed the lifting of the state of emergency in Egypt, nearly 31 years after it was first imposed in 1981 to give security forces sweeping powers to detain suspects and try them in special courts.
The notorious law, which had led to the detention and torture of thousands in custody after the assassination of former President Anwar Sadat in 1981, expired on Thursday midnight. Lifting of the controversial law was one of the main demands of activists during last year's popular unrest that eventually led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt's current military rulers have indicated that they have no intention of renewing the law. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which came to power after Mubarak's exit, said Friday that that it will "continue to carry its national responsibility in protecting the country until the transfer of power is over."
The United States welcomed the end of the emergency law in Egypt, with State Department spokesman Mark Toner telling reporters in Washington on Friday that it was a step "in the right direction" for the North African nation.
"It is something that we have repeatedly encouraged them to do and it is certainly in keeping with the timeline that the (military) has set out for this democratic transition so it will be another step in that direction," Toner said.
Separately, a statement issued by the office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Friday read: "The EU welcomes the expiration of the state of emergency in Egypt."
"As Egypt prepares for the second round of the Presidential elections and the transfer of power to civilian rule, this is an essential step in meeting the demands and aspirations of the Egyptian people in the ongoing democratic transition. It should contribute significantly to the protection of fundamental human rights for all citizens," the EU statement added.
The development came as Egypt was in the midst of preparations for holding a presidential run-off on June 16 as none of the 13 presidential aspirants managed to secure the required 50 percent votes for an outright victory in the first round of polls held last month.
The run-off pits Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Morsi against former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq. Morsi had come in first place with 5.76 million votes or 24.3% in the first round, and was closely followed by Shafiq, who secured 5.5 million votes or 23.3%. The SCAF has promised to hand over power to the newly elected President on July 1.
by RTT Staff Writer
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