This isn’t martial law, Morsi spokesman says
Security measures are for Saturday vote, he says, but some are skeptical.
cAIRO — A day after President Mohammed Morsi formally directed the military to help keep public order and authorized soldiers to arrest civilians, a spokesman Monday sought to draw distinctions between the order and the forms of martial law that the Egyptian army had previously imposed.
The spokesman, Khaled al-Qazzaz, said the president had called upon the military for the limited purpose of protecting polling stations during Saturday’s constitutional referendum. He also said the president had instructed the army to refer any civilians arrested by soldiers to a civilian court for trial, instead of military tribunals, reversing the blanket authorizations that the Egyptian military has long demanded when it takes on a policing role.
“What the president did with the Cabinet is, anyone arrested will be referred to a normal judicial process and it will go to a normal civilian court,” al-Qazzaz said. “There will be no military trials.”
Ending military trials was a rallying cry of the opposition when the council was in charge, but it was not immediately clear Monday how the instructions al-Qazzaz described might fit within the usual rules of the Egyptian military.
Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, noted that the text of the order allowed the military to continue taking civilians to military courts.
“Had he wanted to,” Morayef said, “President Morsi could have stipulated that the military’s jurisdiction would have been limited in this case and that every civilian will be referred to a civilian court, but he chose not to.”
She also noted that the draft constitution specifically allows for the military to continue bringing civilians to military courts for trial if they disobey a military authority.