Despite ruling, Egypt delays ending curfew
Military worries pro-Morsi protests will rise again
Ousted President Mohammed Morsi ,center, arrives for a trial hearing in Cairo, Egypt after four months in secret detention. Morsi had his first extensive meeting with lawyers, Tuesday, consulting in prison with a team from his Muslim Brotherhood over his ongoing trial on charges of inciting murder. So far, Morsi is refusing to accept any legal representation in the trial, insisting he remains president, and his son says he wants to take legal action against those prosecuting him after his ouster by the military. AP photo
CAIRO — A court declared that Egypt’s 3-month-old state of emergency expired Tuesday, two days earlier than expected, but the military and security officials held off from implementing the ruling and lifting a nighttime curfew, amid worries that the measures’ end will fuel protests by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
Morsi, meanwhile, held his first extensive meeting with lawyers in a prison near the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He had been held in secret military detention with almost no contact with the outside world since he was ousted in a July 3 popularly backed coup, but he was moved to a regular prison last week after the first session of his trial on charges of inciting murder.
The lawyers, who hail from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, on Wednesday will relay a message from Morsi addressing the Egyptian people and “all parties,” according to Morsi’s son Osama, a lawyer who was among those who met him. The son told The Associated Press that his father is still refusing to allow any lawyer to represent him in the trial because he insists he remains president and does not recognize the tribunal.
The state of emergency and a nighttime curfew imposed along with it have been aimed at helping authorities tighten their security grip and control on near daily protests that frequently descended into violence by pro-Morsi supporters and his Muslim Brotherhood demanding his reinstatement and the reversal of what the call an illegal coup against democracy.
On Monday, Interior Minister Mahmoud Ibrahim, who heads the security forces, said the state of emergency would expire on Thursday and that security reinforcements would deploy in the streets at that time — a sign of the worries over intensified protests.
The confusion came because the state of emergency was initially announced for a month on Aug. 14. But the government renewed it for another two months on Sept. 12. The court said that means it ended on Tuesday.
The Cabinet put out a statement saying it will abide by the ruling, but that it will wait for the details of the ruling to issue the verdict in writing. By Tuesday night, that had not occurred.
The military said that without official notification of the verdict, it was implementing the curfew as planned, at 1 a.m. on Wednesday. Military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said in a statement that the military so far had not been “notified officially of any court ruling.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that the U.S. welcomed the formal lifting of the state of emergency, but also took note of the fact the government is considering other legislation on security.
“We urge the government to respect the rights of all Egyptians,” the statement said. “This includes ensuring that Egyptians on all sides can peacefully exercise their right to freedom of assembly and expression as well as ensuring due process and that all civilians arrested are referred only to civilian courts.”
Fearing return of mass demonstrations, the military-backed interim government is working on a controversial new law that would restrict the right to protest by forcing organizers to seek a permit to hold any gathering — something authorities can deny if they see it threatening public order. Violators risk jail terms and heavy fines. Presidential spokesman Ihab Badawi said a final draft of the law has been sent to the presidency and will be passed shortly.
Earlier, Human Rights Watch and other groups condemned the law, saying it will “effectively give the police carte blanche to ban protests in Egypt” and allows officers to use force to disperse them, “even when a single protester throws a stone.”