Right to arrest till referendum results are announced

President Mohamed Morsy ordered Egypt’s army from Monday to take on police powers — including the right to arrest civilians — in the run-up to a vote on a constitution that has triggered bloodshed.

The decree ordered the military to fully cooperate with police “to preserve security and protect vital state institutions for a temporary period, up to the announcement of the results from the referendum”, according to a copy of the decree obtained by AFP.

Army officers “all have powers of legal arrest”, it said.The military, which ruled Egypt between former president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011 to Mr.Morsy’s election in June 2012, has sought to remain neutral in the political crisis but has also warned that it “will not allow” the situation to deteriorate, and urged both sides to dialogue.

Army tanks and troops have since Thursday been deployed around Mr. Morsy’spresidential palace. But they have not confronted thousands of protesters who have gathered there every night.

The opposition views the new constitution, largely drawn up by Mr.Morsy’s Islamist allies, as undermining human rights, the rights of women, religious minorities, and curtailing the independence of the judiciary.

Late Sunday, the main opposition group, the National Salvation Front, called for huge protests in Cairo to reject the December 15 constitutional referendum.

Criticism

In recent days, the protesters have hardened their slogans, going beyond criticism of the decree and the referendum to demand the President ouster. Mr. Morsy’s camp argues it is up to the people to accept or reject the draft constitution.

A group of senior judges on Monday said pro-Morsy Islamist protesters would have to lift a week-long sit-in on the constitutional court before they would consider overseeing the referendum.

If the charter is rejected, the President has promised to have a new one drawn up by 100 officials chosen directly by the public rather than appointed by the Islamist-dominated parliament.

But analysts said still-strong public support for Mr. Morsy and the Brotherhood’s proven ability to mobilise at grassroots level would likely help the draft constitution be adopted. — AFP


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