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Cablegate: Egypt's Emergency Law and Its Broad Uses

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-- Egypt's State of Emergency, in effect almost continuously
since 1967, allows for the application of the 1958 Emergency
Law, which grants the GOE broad powers to arrest individuals
without charge and to detain them indefinitely.

-- The Emergency Law creates state security courts, which
issue verdicts that cannot be appealed, and can only be
modified by the president.

-- The Emergency Law allows the president broad powers to
"place restrictions" on freedom of assembly. Separately, the
penal code criminalizes the assembly of 5 or more people in a
gathering that could "threaten public order."

-- Over the past two decades, the vast majority of cases
where the government has used the Emergency Law have been to
target violent Islamist extremist groups such as the Islamic
Group and Al-Jihad, and political activity by the Muslim
Brotherhood. However, the GOE has also used the Emergency
Law in some recent cases to target bloggers and labor

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Broad Powers Granted to the Government

2. Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Egypt has almost
continuously been under a State of Emergency. The State of
Emergency allows for the application of the Emergency Law of
1958, which grants the government broad powers to restrict
civil liberties by acting outside the civil and criminal
codes. Article 3 of the Emergency Law allows the president
to order "placing restrictions on personal freedom of
assembly, movement, residence, traffic in specific areas at
specific times," and "the arrest of suspects or individuals
threatening public security and order," and arrests and
searches without implementation of the law of criminal
procedures..." In practice, the Interior Ministry carries
out "the order" of the President either orally or in writing.
Article 3 also authorizes surveillance of personal messages
and confiscation of publications.

Detention Under the Emergency Law

3. Article 3 of the law stipulates that detainees can appeal
an arrest order after six months in a state security court,
and that the court's decision is subject to approval by the
president. In practice, after 30 days in prison,detainees
can demand court hearings to challenge detention orders.
Detainees can re-submit demands for hearings every 30 days;
however, a judge can uphold a detention order indefinitely.
The Emergency Law does not mandate a maximum detention
period, and therefore allows the government, subject to the
approval of a State Security court and the president, to
detain individuals indefinitely without charge.

The Emergency Law's Court System

4. Article 7 of the law creates state security courts. Three
civilian judges preside over the courts, two of whom may be
replaced by military judges appointed by the president. The
law also establishes state security prosecutors who review
cases and refer them to the state security courts. Per
article 7, judges' verdicts in state security courts are
final; there is no appeal process. Article 6 also stipulates
that all state security court verdicts are subject to the
review of the president, and Article 14 allows the president
to modify sentences handed down by state security court

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Assembly under the Emergency Law and the Penal Code
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. Per para 2, the Emergency Law gives the president power to
place "restrictions on personal freedom of assembly."
Separately, in the penal code, law 10 of 1914 criminalizes
the "assembly of five or more people in a gathering that
could threaten public order or security." The law of
meetings and demonstrations, law 14 of 1923 requires citizens
to notify police prior to holding a gathering, and allows
police to prevent a gathering from taking place and to
dissolve a gathering once it is convened.

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Terrorism Cases under The Emergency Law

6. During the 1990's when Islamist terror organizations such
as The Islamic Group and Al-Jihad carried out a series of
attacks, the government arrested and detained thousands of
Islamists under the Emergency Law. Contacts estimate that
about 4,000 to 5,000 of these detainees remain in prison.
Under the Emergency Law, security forces detained groups of
Bedouin in the Sinai in connection with investigations into
terror attacks there in 2004, 2005 and in April 2006.

7. In late 2008, the government used the Emergency Law to
arrest 26 members of a Hizballah cell, 18 of whom are
Egyptian. The cell was allegedly working to target U.S. and
Israeli ships transiting the Suez Canal. The case is now
before a state security court. In July 2009, the government
used the Emergency Law to arrest and detain a group of 25
Egyptians and one Palestinian. The group allegedly aided
Hamas, assisted in the February 2009 bombing at the Khan
Al-Khalili market in Cairo, and robbed a Cairo jewelry store
owned by Copts. According to press reports, on January 4 a
state security prosecutor transferred the case to a state
security emergency court.

Emergency Law Cases Not Related to Terrorism

8. The government has also used the Emergency Law in cases
not related to terrorism. The GOE jailed blogger Hany Nazir
under the Emergency Law in October 2008 following posts
deemed offensive to Christianity and Islam. The GOE has also
imprisoned activist and blogger Musad Abu Fagr since December
2007 under the Emergency Law following posts about
difficulties faced by Sinai Bedouin. In 2008, the government
arrested a blogger from the heterodox Islamic Quranic sect
under the Emergency Law, and detained him for approximately
90 days.

9. In recent years, the government has used the Emergency Law
to arrest large numbers of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members
without charge in the run-up to the 2005 parliamentary
elections, the 2008 local council elections and the 2010
parliamentary elections. The government released most of the
detainees after holding them from periods ranging from a few
days to several months.

10. The government used the Emergency Law to arrest and
prosecute 49 individuals in connection to clashes that broke
out between workers and police during an April 2008 labor
strike in the Delta town of Mahalla. In December 2008, a
state security court convicted 22 people on charges of
assaulting police officers, robbery, and possession of
unlicensed weapons. In 2004, a state security court convicted
26 men linked to the banned Islamic Liberation Party for
belonging to a banned organization. Several defendants
alleged the government tortured them to obtain confessions.

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