Egypt's administrative court has rejected a Justice Ministry decision that allowed military police and intelligence to arrest civilians, media reports citing unnamed sources said Tuesday.
The court reportedly arrived at the decision after reviewing a an appeal filed by rights groups against a controversial June 13 decree that granted sweeping powers to the country's ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). The right to arrest civilians was previously reserved with police officers.
The controversial decree allowed military police and intelligence officers to arrest civilians for crimes and misdemeanors harmful to the government, possession/use of explosives, resisting orders issued by those in power or assaulting them, destruction of public property or historic monuments, obstructing traffic, strike-actions at institutions that serve the public interest or breaching the right to work, as well as intimidation and thuggery.
The decree had triggered an outrage across Egypt, with its opponents arguing that the move was aimed at eventually reintroducing the hugely unpopular emergency laws that were lifted on May 31, following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in last year's unrest..
Nevertheless, the administrative court on Tuesday delayed rulings on the dissolution of the lower house of parliament, the constitutionality of the constituent assembly, the constitutionality of the Shura Council (the upper, consultative house of Egypt's parliament), and the controversial addendum to last year's Constitutional Declaration.
The SCAF dissolved the country's elected lower house of parliament on June 17, following a June 14 Supreme Court ruling that last year's legislative polls were unconstitutional. The ruling questioning the constitutionality of the new constituent assembly has created uncertainties about the drafting of a new Constitution. Lawmakers and rights groups have already launched legal challenges against the court ruling.
The very next day, SCAF issued a constitutional declaration giving itself sweeping legislative powers as well as control over the budget and over who writes the permanent Constitution. The declaration, issued hours after the voting for the presidential run-off ended on June 16, also curtailed the powers of the incoming President.
Egypt had witnessed widespread protests against the two recent moves made by the SCAF, mainly in Cairo's Tahrir Square that served as the nerve center of last year's uprising against Mubarak. Nonetheless, the protests have been overshadowed by the recent election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi as the country's new president.
Past anti-SCAF protests over the two issues have been relatively peaceful, but prior experiences have shown that it does not take much time for the mood of the protesters to change. Incidentally, the SCAF has promised to hand over power to the newly-elected President on July 1.
by RTT Staff Writer
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