Cairo ends state of emergency in effect since attacks on churches

After four years of automatic quarterly renewals, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ended the measure. It granted broad powers to authorities to make arrests and repress individuals or groups. A weapon used in the fight against Isis (and to silence dissent). Move to qualm tourist sector concerns and show the "safe" face of the country. 

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last night decreed the end of the state of emergency in the country, after more than four years of automatic quarterly renewals. The measure had been introduced in April 2017, in response to a series of bomb attacks against a number of Coptic Christian churches, which left dozens dead and hundreds injured. 

"Egypt has become ... an oasis of security and stability in the region," Sisi wrote in a Facebook post. "Hence it was decided, for the first time in years, to cancel the extension of the state of emergency in all areas of the country." 

In a nation of nearly 95 million people with a large Muslim majority, Christians [especially Coptic Orthodox] are a sizeable minority, accounting for about 10% of the total population. Between 2016 and 2017, the Land of the Pharaohs experienced a series of bloody attacks, targeting the Christian community itself with devastating explosions at churches in Tanta and Alexandria that claimed numerous lives. 

The state of emergency grants broad powers to the authorities to make arrests and oppose acts, persons or groups considered "enemies" of the nation. In recent years it has been used both to repress Islamic extremist movements, especially the Isis cells active in Sinai, and to strike dissenting personalities and political opponents.

Under Article 3 of Egypt's 2014 Constitution, the state of emergency allows for indefinite detentions without trial or hearing by military courts. It also places numerous limits on public demonstrations and strengthens the meshes of censorship.

In announcing the end of the state of emergency, a move also for tourism since the country has recently reopened its borders at the time of the Covid-19, President al-Sisi wanted to remember "the Egyptian martyrs with pride and appreciation, because it is thanks to them that we have achieved stability and security".

This news was also welcomed by activists and civil society but, as Hossam Bahgat noted, it will not spare the trial of political and trade union leaders already referred to the court.