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Egypt Extends Emergency Law

The Egyptian government has extended by two years an emergency law that has been in effect for nearly a quarter century. The law permits indefinite detention without trial and hearings of civilians by military courts. It also prohibits gatherings of more than five people and limits speech and association.

The extension of the emergency law was approved by Egypt's parliament, which is controlled by the ruling National Democratic Party. During his re-election campaign last year, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak promised he would replace the emergency law with one that "provides a legislative substitute to combat terrorism." Egypt has suffered several terrorist bombings recently.

Opposition politicians, human rights activists, and ordinary Egyptians have criticized the decision to extend the emergency law. Ahmed Seif-al-Islam, a human rights lawyer who heads the Cairo-based Hisham Mubarak Law Center, said the move was "very negative" and would "thwart the political reform process." George Ishaq, coordinator and spokesman for the Kifayah opposition group, said the law is "used specifically to target the opposition." Mr. Ishaq said that forty-eight Kifayah members were arrested under the emergency law's provisions during demonstrations on April 27th.

Dalia Sherif, an unemployed college graduate, told the New York Times correspondent in Cairo: "We are living in a country with no protection from the people who are supposed to secure us."

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the Egyptian government's decision to extend emergency rule was a "disappointment":

"We understand that Egypt has certainly facing its own issues related to terrorism, but President Mubarak during the presidential campaign had talked about the fact that he was going to seek a new emergency law, but one that would be targeted specifically at fighting terrorism, counterterrorism, and that would take into account respect for freedom of speech as well as human rights."

The United States, says Mr. McCormack, hopes President Mubarak and his government will follow through on that campaign pledge.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.