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Egyptian Army Given Power to Arrest Civilians
December 11, 2012

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Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has given the Republican Guard temporary power to arrest civilians during this weekend's referendum on the proposed constitution, putting army troops on the same legal footing as police officers.

Many who voiced opposition to the draft constitution have urged and/or promised a boycott of the referendum, so they might not be at polling places. However, Morsi has stated a desire to ensure that no violence occurs during the voting. In a clash between protesters and Morsi supporters last week, seven people were killed and hundreds injured. Large crowds had ringed the presidential palace in Heliopolis, and the army had erected barbed wire and stone barricades. Some protesters had cut through some of the barbed wire in order to get closer to the palace, but no further violence was widespread.

Morsi's latest decree empowers soldiers to arrest civilians and refer them to prosecutors from now until referendum results are announced. The government said that the decree was in response to a request from the judges overseeing the voting. Some protesters likened the decree to the emergency laws enacted by former President Hosni Mubarak. Those laws were on the books for decades and enabled the detention of thousands of people. Morsi insisted, however, that he would rescind the decree the moment that voting results were available.

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