Court postpones cases over decree giving military right to make arrests

A court postponed Tuesday its consideration of five cases filed against the justice minister that demand he cancel a decree granting the military broad authority to arrest civilians without permission from judicial authorities.

The State Council Administrative Court decided to postpone hearing the cases to 26 June, the state TV website said.

The cases, filed by activists, rely on the fact that the justice minister issued the decree as an administrative authority, not a judicial or legislative body, which they believe entitles them to challenge the order.

The activists say it violates freedoms protected in the Constitutional Declaration, as well as the separate roles of the military judiciary and civil police forces.

Justice Minister Adel Abdel Hamid issued the decree last week. It gives military police and intelligence officers the right to arrest suspects in crimes of non-military nature until the new constitution, which has yet to be drafted, goes into effect.

Legal and political experts have described the decree as extralegal and a revival of the state of emergency, which expired on 1 June after being in place for over 30 years. But the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces defended the decree.

SCAF member Major General Mamdouh Shahin said the decree was issued to fill the void after the state of emergency expired and is a way that members of the armed forces could participate in maintaining security.

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