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Egypt PM to address parliament Sunday on 'new state of emergency'

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail's statement comes after a number of terrorist attacks have hit the country in North Sinai and the Western Desert

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 21 Oct 2017
Ismail
File Photo: Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail (Reuters)
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Informed sources said Saturday that Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail will address parliament Sunday on a presidential decree issued 12 October declaring a state of emergency across the country for three months.

Ismail's statement comes after a flurry of terrorist attacks have rocked Egypt's North Sinai and the Western Desert in recent days, claiming the lives of dozens of police and army forces.

Sources said the decree, issued by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, was promulgated just one day after a three-month state of emergency, anounced 10 April and extended for another three months on 10 July, came to an end on 10 October.

"In his statement, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail might explain why El-Sisi's decree, issued 12 October, represents a new declaration of the state of the emergency and not a renewal," said an informed source.

Salah Fawzi, a constitutional law professor, told reporters last week that "some disputed the legality of the decree when it was issued on 12 October, citing Article 154 of the 2014 Constitution that limits the period allowed for declaring a state of emergency to three months that can be renewed for only another three months."

"But the fact is that while the 12 October decree was not a renewal, the constitution does not ban a redeclaration of the state of the emergency in case of necessity," Fawzi argued. 

Sources said Prime Minister Sherif Ismail is expected to cite the new series of terrorist attacks in North Sinai and the Western Desert to justify 12 October's redeclaration of the state of emergency.

"I also expect that the prime minister will use his statement to refer to a number of countries, notably France, Tunisia and Turkey, which also resorted to imposing a renewable state of emergency in response to terrorist attacks and national security threats," independent MP Mostafa Bakri told Ahram Online.

Bakri expects that El-Sisi's 12 October decree on the new state of emergency, attached with the prime minister's statement before parliament on this decree, will be put up for a vote in an evening plenary session Sunday.

Egypt’s interior ministry said on Saturday that 16 policemen were killed and 13 were injured in a shootout with terrorists on Friday in Egypt’s Western Desert.

The ministry said that 11 police officers, four conscripts and one sergeant were killed in the shootout, and a search is underway for one missing police officer. Four police officers and nine conscripts were also injured.

'Ferocious war' 

Parliament's deputy speaker Mahmoud El-Sherif told reporters Saturday that the raid on a terrorist hideout in Egypt's Western Desert clearly shows that Egypt is still in the throes of a ferocious war against "black terrorism."

"This requires that all Egyptians join arms in order to win this war in terms of providing the army and police forces with all means possible and necessary to clamp down on terrorists and their hideouts in Sinai and the Western Desert," El-Sherif said. 

In legislative terms, El-Sherif said parliament will do its job voting in favour of redeclaring the state of emergency and accelerating the drafting of the new "criminal procedures law."

"These two legislative means, combined with referring criminals to military courts, will help a lot in the battle of ridding Egypt of terrorism," El-Sherif said.

El-Sherif revealed that a law aimed at "giving families of police and army people who fall victims in the war against terrorism a number of financial privileges" is being discussed in order to help them recover from the loss of their breadwinners.

Kamal Amer, head of parliament's defence and national security committee, also told reporters that "MPs have a lot of trust and confidence that the interior ministry will be able to retaliate for the men who lost their lives in the raid on a terrorist hideout" in the Western Desert on Friday.

"It is a very sorrowful incident, but this was not the first and will not be the last because terrorists still receive huge supplies of money, ammunition and sophisticated weapons in order to be able to hit the country every now and then," Amer said. 

Amer, a former chief of military intelligence, said: "The interior ministry should gain experience and learn a new lesson from the recent terrorist attacks in North Sinai and the Western Desert."

"The ministry's leadership in coordination with its terrorism experts should sit down to analyse last week's attacks and conclude lessons so that all terrorism-combating battalions learn them and avoid mistakes in the future," Amer said. 

"The imposition of the state of emergency for six months was highly successful in stemming terrorist attacks inside Egyptian cities.

"As everybody knows, the state of emergency was declared in the aftermath of 9 April's deadly blasts which targeted two churches in Tanta and Alexandria, leaving dozens of Coptic Christians killed and injured. But now we see that most of terrorist attacks have become confined to small parts of the country in the mountainous deserts of Sinai, which is near to Gaza, and in the Western Desert, which is near to Libya."

Bahaaeddin Abu Shokka, head of parliament's legislative committee, said "President El-Sisi's decree redeclaring the state of emergency will be discussed by the committee following Prime Minister Sherif Ismail's statement."

The decree was referred to parliament immediately after it was issued by El-Sisi as per Article 154 of the 2014 Constitution, Abu Shokka said, adding that "Once approved by the committee, a report on it will be prepared to be voted on in a plenary session."

Abu Shokka also indicated that, "While the first six-month state of emergency expired on 10 October, El-Sisi's decree was issued on 12 October. This means that there is a one day interval, which makes the decree a redeclaration of the state of emergency, and not a renewal of the first six-month period."

Abu Shokka added: "Despite the great dangers facing national security, security forces were keen that the imposition of state of emergency does not come at the expense of freedoms."

"I think that after six months of emergency, ordinary citizens feel highly secure and free and that, for instance, authorities allowed football fans to return back to stadiums to attend some national matches.

"Egypt's existing anti-terror legislations are quite enough to confront threats, but if the government saw that new legislation in this respect should be passed, we would be ready to discuss it."

Abu Shokka indicated that the recent amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law are being discussed by parliament's legislative and constitutional affairs committee.

These amendments are not just confined to speeding up trials of suspected terrorists, but also address certain issues that are of major concern to human rights organisations, such as custodial sentences, travel bans, and trials in absentia," Abu Shokka said. "The amendments were mainly inspired by legislation in this respect in France," he added.

Opposition MP Diaaeddin Dawoud, a member of leftist 25-30 group, said "Members of the group are ready to approve any extension of the state of the emergency," but the government has to tell us first "what kind of necessity is in place to justify extending this state [of emergency]."

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