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Cablegate: Egypt Extends Emergency Law

VZCZCXRO3724
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #1066 1481146
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 271146Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9341
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS CAIRO 001066

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

NSC STAFF FOR PASCUAL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PTER EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT EXTENDS EMERGENCY LAW

REF: CAIRO 971

---------------------------
EGYPT EXTENDS EMERGENCY LAW
---------------------------

1.(SBU) On May 26, following a single day of debate, Egypt's
Parliament voted to extend the Emergency Law, in place
continuously since 1981, for an additional two years. The
vote count was 305 in favor and 103 opposed, with the 87
Moslem Brotherhood affiliated and small number of independent
and secular opposition members of Parliament voting against
the extension. The Emergency Law permits indefinite
detentions without trial, the use of military tribunals to
adjudicate cases involving civilians, and may be used to
limit freedoms of speech and association. Egypt's Parliament
last extended the Emergency Law on April 30, 2006, an
extension that was due to expire on May 31, 2008.

2.(SBU) In his 2005 re-election campaign platform, President
Mubarak pledged that the Emergency Law would be replaced by a
comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Law. A government
inter-agency drafting committee has reportedly been working
on the Counter-Terrorism Law (reftel), and as recently as
February 2008, Egypt's Minister for Parliamentary Affairs
Mufeed Shehab announced that the law would be issued
"on-time," presumably referring to the then May 31, 2008
expiration date for the Emergency Law. There is now no
indication when the draft Counter-Terrorism law, the text of
which has not be released publicly, will be sent to
Parliament or become law.

-------------------------
Suggested Press Guidance
-------------------------

3.(SBU) Question: What is your reaction to Egypt's
extension of the Emergency Law, which has been in place for
almost three decades?

Answer: We are disappointed the Government of Egypt has
extended the Emergency Law because it has not enacted its
draft counter-terror law. President Mubarak committed to
lifting the Emergency Law in 2005. New counter-terrorism
legislation and the abolition of the Emergency Law was
envisioned in the Constitutional Amendments ratified in 2007.
While we in the United States understand legislative delays,
we look forward to the lifting of the Emergency Law and its
replacement with a counter-terrorism law that better protects
Egypt from terror and also ensures due process protection for
criminal suspects.

Background: President Mubarak has extended the Emergency
Law, which has been in continuous effect since 1981. We
understand that the Egyptian government is preparing a
counter-terrorism law to replace the Emergency Law but was
unable to complete its work before the end of the current
parliamentary session. President Mubarak committed to
lifting the Emergency Law in the run-up to his re-election in
2005. In 2007, the Egyptian Parliament amended the
constitution, including a revision to the articles affecting
crime and punishment. The Egyptian Government regarded these
amendments as a pre-condition for replacing the current
Emergency Law with a counter-terrorism law based on European
and other western statutory models.

SCOBEY

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