Egypt’s emergency law will be in place until June next year, the ruling military said on Wednesday, dashing demands by protesters for a swift end to the code that rights groups say was used by former leader Hosni Mubarak to stifle dissent.
The law was extended for two years in mid-2010 when Mubarak was in power. Protesters who ousted the former president from office in February have demanded it be lifted.
The ruling army said it was reactivating emergency law after an attack by protesters on Israel’s embassy this month, which prompted Israel to withdraw its ambassador. The army said it would be used to stop thuggery and other crimes.
General Adel Morsi, head of the military judicial authority, said the law was extended by “presidential decree” for two years ending on June 30, 2012, the state news agency MENA said. He said reports suggesting it would be removed were wrong.
One top general had been quoted by newspapers saying the law would be lifted as soon as possible. Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, appointed by the military council now ruling Egypt, was quoted by state-owned Al-Akbar newspaper that emergency law was in place to “protect the revolution.”
“We have been denouncing the state of emergency since before the revolution,” said Ahmed Maher, a senior member of the April 6 movement which helped galvanize anti-Mubarak protests.
“We reject the decision by the military council as we see no reason for it if the criminal law is implemented,” he said.
Other activists and politicians have also said Egypt’s legal system can deal with violent crimes without the need to resort to special emergency courts. The law was in place during Mubarak’s three decades in office.
Activists and political groups marched on Monday from Tahrir Square, the center of the revolt against Mubarak, to the cabinet headquarters to protest against emergency law and military trials.
“We have ongoing awareness campaigns distributing flyers and mobilizing people against the state of emergency,” said Maher.