Two days before nationwide anti-government protests are set to kick off, Egypt's prosecutor-general released a statement reminding citizens of their legal right to arrest anyone who vandalises public property.
In a Thursday statement, the prosecutor-general stressed its support for peaceful protests while simultaneously asserting that some acts were "criminal" and therefore "punishable by law."
Such acts include attacks on police or army officers tasked with protecting public institutions; acts of violence or 'thuggery'; the blocking of roads or highways; and the obstruction of public institutions from performing their responsibilities.
The statement went on to remind citizens that they had the legal right to arrest perpetrators of any of the above-mentioned acts.
"The prosecution would like to remind citizens of the right of police and army officers to arrest anyone who breaks the law," the statement said. "It also reminds citizens of their right to arrest criminals and hand them over to the nearest officer with power of arrest."
In March 2013, Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah set off a firestorm of controversy when he declared that citizens had the right to arrest "vandals."
"Egypt's prosecutor-general urges all citizens to exercise the right afforded them by Article 37 of Egypt's criminal procedure law... to arrest anyone found committing a crime and refer them to official personnel," the prosecutor-general's office had said at the time.
In June 2012, Egypt's justice ministry issued a decree authorising military-intelligence officers and military police officers to arrest civilians, a right previously reserved for police officers alone.
Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court, however, overturned the decree shortly afterward.
After clashes erupted on the second anniversary of Egypt's January 2011 uprising, President Mohamed Morsi declared a state of emergency in the three cities of Egypt's Suez Canal, again giving army officers the power to arrest citizens.