Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour has transferred emergency powers to Prime Minister Hazem Al Beblawi, state media reported on Sunday, as the country’s new rulers seem prepared to crack down on protesters backing the toppled Islamist president Mohamad Morsi.
The transferred powers give Al Beblawi, a liberal economist, the authority to order the army to arrest civilians and scrap or commute court rulings, except those handed down in cases of murder and complicity. The authorisation comes amid increasing fears about human rights in Egypt and an expected draconian campaign against supporters of Morsi who was overthrown by the army earlier this month.
Interior Minister Mohammad Ebrahim this week vowed to end a month-long sit-in protest by Morsi’s loyalists in eastern Cairo. He added that the evacuation would be carried out in coordination with the army “very soon” after getting a “legal cover”.
Rights groups have criticised police for allegedly using “excessive force” against Morsi’s supporters during clashes on Saturday in Cairo, in which at least 80 people were killed, according to health authorities.
Ebrahim said his forces only fired tear gas to disperse the protesters whom he claimed had tried to block a major bridge.
In an apparent bid to allay concerns about the transferred powers to Al Beblawi, a presidential aide said the enforcement of these powers did not call for a state of emergency.
“There is a misunderstanding about this authorisation,” Ali Saleh, a constitutional advisor to the president said, according to state television. “Some people think that this authorisation means the imminent imposition of the state of emergency, which is not true. These powers are pertaining to administrative measures, taken to preserve the state security.”
The move comes days after millions of Egyptians took to the streets in response to a call by Defence Minister Abdul Fatah Al Sissi, who masterminded Morsi’s overthrow, to give the army and police a “mandate to deal with violence and terrorism.” The call was widely seen as aiming to show public support for the anticipated clampdown on the Muslim Brotherhood to which Morsi belongs.
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