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The News Line: Feature MILITARY ATTEMPT NEW EGYPTIAN COUP – Will not be able to drive back the revolution FOLLOWING Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruling that the just-elected parliament is illegitimate, workers are vowing that they will not allow the return to a military police dictatorship.

‘The constitutional court affirmed in the details of its verdict that the parliamentary elections were not constitutional, and the entire composition of parliament has been illegitimate since its election,’ the official MENA news agency reported.

Members of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) were in a meeting and did not immediately issue a statement.

But a military source told journalists that the court decision gave the military legislative powers.

‘We don’t want it (the power) but according to the court decision and that law, it reverts back to us,’ he said.

The military suspended the constitution after the popular uprising which overthrew President Hosni Mubarak last year and left in charge army generals who comprise the SCAF and rule under an interim charter.

Faruq Sultan, the head of the constitutional court, said that the decision ‘voids’ parliament and must be respected by the authorities.

‘It voids parliament, not in the meaning of dissolves,’ he claimed. ‘But the constitutional court’s rulings is binding on all state authorities and all people,’ he stressed.

The Islamist speaker of parliament Saad al-Katatni had said before the ruling that no authority had the power to dissolve the legislature, which he said would consider how to apply the court’s ruling.

Parliament is dominated by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood through its political arm.

It was running a candidate in the weekend’s presidential election against former airforce chief and Mubarak premier Ahmed Shafiq.

The court also ruled on Thursday that a law barring Shafiq and other senior Mubarak officials from standing for public office was unconstitutional, keeping Shafiq in the presidential race.

Activists and political figures warned that Thursday’s court ruling on parliament will probably mean legislative power reverts to armed forces.

They accused the military of a ‘soft coup’, adding that the court decision will probably mean legislative power reverts to the armed forces and was a sign that the army was unwilling to cede the power it took after Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

And they slammed the court’s decision to keep Shafiq in the race for president.

‘I’m disappointed beyond words,’ activist Ibrahim al-Houdaiby said. ‘This is in many ways a soft military coup.

‘Now we have the parliamentary power going back to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, they will have their presidential candidate, they have the arrest laws. So we are going back to square one.’

Other activists said that the attempted coup would lead to a further leap forward of the revolution
The court’s decision came a day after the justice ministry announced a decision allowing army personnel to arrest civilians, a power they lost with the lifting of the much-criticised decades-old state of emergency last month.

‘Despite all the criticism of the parliament, it was the only elected body of the post-Mubarak era,’ noted activist Wael Khalil.

‘SCAF was the one who put in place the law for the elections. That was nearly ten months ago and now all of a sudden they discover that it’s unconstitutional? Of course it’s a political decision.’

The court based its decision on what it said were illegal articles in the law governing parliamentary elections that reserved a third of seats for directly voted independents, or party members, and the rest for party lists.

Egypt’s military decided on a complex electoral system in which voters cast ballots for party lists which made up two thirds of parliament and also for individual candidates for the remaining seats in the lower house.

The individual candidates were meant to be ‘independents,’ but members of political parties were subsequently allowed to run, giving the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) an advantage.

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate Islamist who stood for president in the first round of the race, described the court’s ruling as a ‘complete coup.’

‘Keeping the military candidate and overturning the elected parliament after granting the military police the right to arrest is a complete coup,’ he wrote on his Facebook page.

‘Whoever thinks that the millions of youth will let it pass is deluding themselves.’

Activist Houdaiby said the Brotherhood bore some of the blame for the court's ruling.

‘They have had a zillion chances to bring more people on board. Had they done that, this decision would have been impossible, because it reflects the balance of power,’ he said.

‘If they had brought all their competitors on board, the consequences of this decision would have been too great.’

‘Egypt just witnessed the smoothest military coup," wrote activist Hossam Bahgat on Twitter. ‘We’d be outraged if we weren’t so exhausted.’

The constitution court considered legality of the law, passed by parliament in April, which sought to bar senior officials of Mubarak’s regime and top members of his now-dissolved National Democratic Party from standing for public office for 10 years.

Announcing the court’s verdict on Thursday, state media agency MENA said: ‘The Supreme Constitutional Court has ruled that the political isolation law is unconstitutional.’

The court also ruled that articles in the law governing parliament were illegal.

MENA added: ‘The constitutional court ruled unconstitutional some articles of the parliamentary election law related to the direct vote system’, referring to the third of seats elected on a first-past-the-post system.

The state news agency added: ‘The constitutional court affirmed in the details of its verdict that the parliamentary elections were not constitutional, and the entire composition of parliament has been illegitimate since its election.’

l A decision by Egypt's Justice Ministry to extend the military’s power to arrest and investigate civilians for a wide range of offences would pave the way for fresh human rights violations and must be urgently revoked, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

According to the decision, announced on Wednesday by Minister of Justice Adel Abdel Hamid Abdallah, military police and intelligence officers are now granted the same powers as judicial police when dealing with civilians suspected of offences related to national security and public order.

Amnesty noted: ‘Worryingly, the new decision gives military police and intelligence officers the authority to arrest suspects in their homes as well as in the streets.’

Amnesty said: ‘In the unrest since early 2011, peaceful protesters have routinely been punished for such offences, which include resisting public authorities and disobeying their orders, assaulting by insults and other acts, damaging public property, blocking traffic, strikes in key public places and “thuggery”.’

‘Instead of investigating the serious abuses committed by military officers and soldiers against protesters and others since January 2011, Egypt’s authorities are giving them carte blanche to arrest and detain civilians,’ said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

‘We urge the authorities to rescind this decision, which has dangerous and pervasive ramifications for the rule of law in Egypt.

‘That the Minister of Justice could now give an army responsible for killing, torture, and thousands of arbitrary arrests and unfair trials the power to arrest and detain civilians beggars belief. It is nothing less than legally sanctioning abuse.’

The Head of Egypt’s Military Judiciary said that the decision fills a gap left by the end of the Mubarak-era state of emergency, which expired on 31 May after being in effect for three decades, and insists it will not be used against peaceful protesters.

‘The end of Egypt’s long-standing state of emergency was an opportunity for the authorities to end decades of abuses that have corroded the country’s justice system,’ said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

‘Yet we fear this latest decision signals that instead of ushering in proper reform, the authorities are intent on holding on tight to the emergency powers they enjoyed for so long.’
 
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