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Viewing cable 10CAIRO64, EGYPT'S EMERGENCY LAW AND ITS BROAD USES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10CAIRO64 2010-01-12 09:09 2011-02-16 21:09 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO5513
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0064/01 0120925
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 120925Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4717
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000064 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DRL FOR A/S POSNER 
FOR NEA/ELA AND DRL/NESCA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PTER KDEM KIRF ELAB EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT'S EMERGENCY LAW AND ITS BROAD USES 
 
1. KEY POINTS 
 
-- 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 
demonstrators. 
 
-------------------------------------- 
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 
judges. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
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. 
 
CAIRO 00000064  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
--------------------------------------- 
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. 
SCOBEY