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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 11:45 GMT
US 'concern' at Egypt powers
Egyptian protester against war on Iraq
Some rallies against the build-up to war have allegedly been repressed
The United States has "serious concerns" about Egypt's extension of emergency laws which allow it to detain suspects without charge and try civilians in military courts.

The Egyptian parliament on Sunday approved a three-year extension to the emergency legislation - which has been renewed continuously since 1981.

"We have had serious concerns that we have often raised with the government of Egypt concerning the manner in which that law had been applied," said a State Department spokesman, Philip Reeker.

Since 11 September 2001, the US has itself made extensive use of emergency powers to detain without charge and hold military tribunals against civilians in its "war on terror".

About 600 people have been held without charge in the US Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for over a year.

However, Mr Reeker said, the Egyptian Government appeared at times to stray from strict application of the laws.

'Protection against enemies'

"For example," he said, "we have expressed our concerns regarding the practices of referral to the emergency courts of cases that do not appear to be linked to national security, and referral of civilians to military tribunal for non-violent offences and the indefinite renewal of administrative detention."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Egypt is a major recipient of US aid
On Sunday, the Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Ebeid was quoted as saying the measures "aimed to protect the country against its enemies" but would "not be used against freedom of expression".

Egyptians have lived under emergency laws since 1967, except for an 18-month break in 1980.

Police have prevented some rallies against the impending war on Iraq in Egypt - one of the top recipients of US foreign aid.

Human rights group Amnesty International has also complained that the emergency laws are at times used to stifle freedom of expression.


SEE ALSO:
Country Profile: Egypt
18 Oct 02 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Egypt
30 Jan 03 |  Middle East
Egyptian activist's retrial opens
04 Feb 03 |  Middle East
UN says Egypt 'tortures detainees'
21 Nov 02 |  Middle East
US to withhold extra Egypt aid
15 Aug 02 |  Middle East


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