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Although the lifting of the state of emergency has been among the key demands of protesters since the uprising began in January 2011, this has not happened yet and the emergency law remains in force. In fact, after announcing in August that “the government will start the procedures needed to end the state of emergency, in coordination with the military council,” the Supreme Military Council declared on September 12 that it would continue enforcing the emergency laws until order was re-established. The return of demonstrators to Tahrir Square, the continuations of labor protest, and the general unsettled mood of the country apparently prompted the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to take advantage of all tools at its disposal.
The state of emergency was declared by President Hosni Mubarak immediately after President Anwar Sadat’s assassination on October 6, 1981, and has not been lifted since. Under the state of emergency, anyone who is perceived as a threat to national security can be arrested and imprisoned without warrant or trial. The emergency law allows the state to cordon dissent, greatly increasing the power of the executive or, at present, the SCAF. Mubarak repeatedly promised that the state of emergency would be lifted, but never did so. Egyptians worry that the pattern is being repeated under the SCAF.
The major stipulations of the law are as follows:
- Restrictions will be placed on the freedom to assemble, to move residence, and drive in certain places or at certain times (a curfew) as well as the arrest (without warrant) of those suspected of disrupting public order, as well as being able to search homes with no warrant.
- The security forces have the right to seize or confiscate all types of publications (newspapers, pamphlets, advertisements), as well as screen them before publication.
- The state has the right to shut down stores, open others, or close all in a certain area.
- The state has the right to seize any companies threatening civil order.
- The state has the right to seize any unregistered arms, weapons, or weapons depot.
- The state has the right to evacuate areas, restrict transportation to areas, search individuals, and request identification.