'Government vows that emergency law will not come at expense of freedoms and rights,' Egypt PM tell MPs

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 22 Oct 2017

As MPs condemned the killing of 16 policemen in a shootout with terrorists on Friday, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told MPs on Sunday that declaring a new state of emergency is necessary to keep Egypt secure

File Photo: Egypt's PM Sherif Ismail (Photo:Al-Ahram Arabic News website)

In a brief statement before parliament on Sunday, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told MPs that President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's decree issued 12 October declaring a new state of emergency across the country for three months comes in time to help the government fight terrorist attacks that aim to disrupt the nation's march towards development.

"The new state of emergency also comes after the country faced very hard and painful conditions in the last few days," said Ismail, noting that "a lot of policemen lost their lives while they were fighting terrorist elements, which have no interest but killing the people of this nation."

Ismail said "Egypt faces terrorism every time it moves towards securing achievements."

"Terrorist elements not only target the security of Egypt, but they also aim to disrupt the process of comprehensive development in this country," Ismail said.

"But let us say that the fact that terrorist operations target the development process shows that we are moving on the right path and will never be intimidated from doing so," he added.

Ismail said the cabinet had decided to approve El-Sisi's decree (decree 510/2017) declaring a new state of emergency across the country for three months.

"This decree is a necessary measure that many long-standing democratic countries have adopted in order to keep their security and stability intact and stand up to terrorist attacks, which aim to disrupt its civilized march," said Ismail.

He vowed that "the government will never resort to invoking any exceptional measures that might negatively affect the freedoms and rights of citizens."

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs that the prime minister's statement on "the new state of emergency" will be referred to the House's General Committee to be discussed.

The committee is led by the speaker and includes his two deputies, heads of 25 committees and representatives of political parties and independents.

"The General Committee will prepare a report on Prime Minister Sherif Ismail's statement to be discussed and voted on in an afternoon session on Sunday," Abdel-Aal said.

"The discussion of PM Sherif Ismail's statement comes in line with article 154 of Egypt's 2014 constitution and Article 132 of parliament's internal bylaws," he added.

President El-Sisi's decree states that "in light of the dangerous security conditions facing the nation and after getting the cabinet's approval, the state of emergency will be declared across the country, beginning from 1am on the morning of Friday 13 October and for three months."

Article 2 states that the prime minister will be mandated with using the powers granted to the president of the republic in this respect and as prescribed by the emergency law (law no. 162/1958).

Article 3 states that violators will face prison sentences as prescribed by the emergency law.

Ismail's statement came after parliament devoted a one-hour session to discussing a shootout between terrorists and security forces that left 16 policemen killed after security mounted a raid on a terrorist hideout in the Western Desert on Friday.

Abdel-Aal told MPs, "The goal of these terrorist operations we see now and then is not just to kill police and military men, but also to make Egyptians lose trust in their country and to disrupt their morale."

"We should not allow them do this, and as they know they will never be able to disrupt this long-standing and ancient country, they hope that they will be able to destroy our trust in ourselves," he said.

"The new state of emergency acts as an effective tool in the country's long war against terrorism," he added.

The speaker also addressed those who might oppose the renewal of the state of emergency.

"While the country is living with delicate security conditions and as countries around us are facing the spectre of partition and disintegration, some among us reject declaring a new state of emergency," he said.

"They forget that many democratic countries came ahead of Egypt in imposing the state of emergency with a small difference – that is instead of imposing an emergency law, they resort to issuing what they call 'anti-terror laws', which are no different from the emergency law," Abdel-Aal said.

Alaa Abed, head of parliament's human rights committee, told MPs that "although the terrorist attack in the Western Desert claimed the lives of 16 policemen, as many as 300 police officers affiliated with the Central Security department of special operations have asked to join the fight against terrorists in North Sinai and the Western Desert."

"Security and army men sacrificed their lives during the wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973, and they are ready to sacrifice more in the new war against terrorism," Abed added.

Magdi Malak, a Coptic MP, urged Egyptians to stay united behind their government.

"And we MPs are ready to give the government all possible support, in addition to approving the new state of emergency," Malak said.

Independent MP Mostafa Bakri accused foreign powers of using "what they call Islamists to spread chaos and disruption in Arab countries."

"While American and Zionist intelligence agencies have raised these Islamists, the state of Qatar is now sponsoring them to target Arab countries," Bakri said.

Salah Hassaballah, a member of the majority Support Egypt parliamentary bloc, said Egyptians have been facing a ferocious war of terrorism since they decided to rise up against the Muslim Brotherhood regime in 30 June 2013.

"We have recovered the nation from a terrorist organization on this date and we paid a dear price for this," Hassaballah said.

Independent MP Gamal Sherif was alone in calling for Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar to be summoned for questioning over Friday's incident in the Western Desert.

Osama Heikal, head of the Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee, said Egypt was engaged in a media war with elements intent on breaking the nation's morale.

"We are fighting an enemy from within, and this enemy bets that the longer the battle against terrorism, the better the chance that we will lose our nerve and morale and become despondent," Heikal said, announcing his approval of the new state of emergency.

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