Egyptian churches in the southern city of Minya said they will not hold Easter celebrations next Saturday in mourning for 45 Coptic Christians killed this week in twin bombings of churches in two cities during Palm Sunday ceremonies. In a statement Tuesday, the Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said that celebrations will only be limited to the liturgical prayers “without any festive manifestations.”
Minya province has the highest Coptic Christian population in the country. Sunday’s bombings, claimed by Daesh (ISIS), are the latest escalation by the extremist group – which recently vowed to step up its attacks against Egypt’s embattled Christian minority.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency, which was approved by Parliament Tuesday, following the attacks.
The end of emergency law was a key demand during the 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, who had imposed a 30-year state of emergency to crush opposition. The law was lifted after Mubarak stepped down but reimposed temporarily in the years that followed.
Addressing Parliament Tuesday, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the state of emergency was essential to fight what he called terrorist groups bent on undermining the country.
“The emergency law is aimed at enemies of the homeland and citizens, and it will grant state apparatuses greater ability, flexibility and speed to confront an evil enemy that has not hesitated to kill and wreak havoc without justification or discrimination,” he said.
The law’s return raises fears among some Egyptians, who see it as a formal return to the pre-2011 police state, at a time when rights activists say they already face the worst crackdown in their history.
“By implementing the state of emergency almost all the guarantees that exist for rights and freedoms in the constitution will be halted,” said Nasser Amin, head of an Egyptian-run organization working to advance judicial independence.
The law grants the executive branch sweeping powers, allowing it to close companies, shutter media outlets, halt demonstrations and monitor personal communications without prior judicial approval, Amin said.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information said the law would not achieve security and was intended to “further suppress freedom of opinion, expression and belief, and to crack down on human rights defenders.”
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