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Egypt: new law giving army policing powers 'sets dangerous precedent'

A new law issued by Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi giving military officers policing powers is a dangerous loophole which may well lead to the military trial of civilians, Amnesty International warned today.

A decree issued yesterday states that all military officers will have the right to exercise judicial powers until the results of a referendum on a draft constitution are announced. That vote is due to be held on 15 December.

In addition, a new law to “protect the revolution”, which allows prosecutors to detain people for up to six months in preventive detention without trial while they are investigated for press and media offences, organising protests, striking and “thuggery”, has not been repealed.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“Considering the track record of the army while they were in charge - with more than 120 protesters killed and in excess of 12,000 civilians unfairly tried before military courts - this sets a dangerous precedent.

“Such restrictive provisions have been routinely used to punish peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

“Under this decree reminiscent of the decried emergency law, people may be held for six months on spurious charges before they are finally brought to trial.”

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