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Egypt to expand security powers of president and military, after lifting emergency

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi presents his national statement as part of the World Leaders' Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The security powers of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the country’s military will be significantly bolstered by new amendments to the "national terrorism law" approved by the Egyptian parliament on Sunday.

Amendments to the controversial law will further reinforce the control of the Egyptian government, barely a week after El-Sisi announced the lifting of a four-year nationwide state of emergency.

The changes to the national terrorism law will now go to El-Sisi for ratification, which is seen by observers as a foregone conclusion.

The amendments give the Egyptian president the authority to take “measures necessary to preserve security and public order,” including imposing lock-downs, among other sweeping powers.

The government in Cairo has long faced heat over its human rights record, including the poor handling of political prisoners.

El-Sisi, who overthrew the democratically-elected government of Mohamed Morsi of Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, has been serving as the president since 2014.  

He has faced international criticism for a crackdown on civil society groups and for crushing any form of dissent against his autocratic rule.

El-Sisi’s administration recently expressed its intent to open up, following the simmering unrest within the country as well as the growing global outcry.

Last week, the state of emergency was lifted after more than four years. The measure had been in place since the April 2017 bombings of two Coptic churches by a group affiliated with the Daesh terrorist group, which resulted in the death of 40 people.

The emergency gave the government sweeping authority to make arrests, raid houses without warrants and infringe upon most fundamental human rights.

The latest measure to introduce amendments to the terrorism law has again raised concerns in the Arab country, with human rights campaigners fearing the last week’s decision to lift the longstanding state of emergency would fail to provide any relief to the people.

Meanwhile, another amendment approved by the lower house of the Egyptian parliament on Monday would make research on the military and its current and former members without written government consent punishable by a hefty fine of up to 50,000 Egyptian pounds, or almost $3,200, reports said.

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