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Egypt panel retains army`s powers in draft charter

The panel drafting Egypt`s new constitution voted on Sunday to preserve the military`s wide-ranging powers, including the ability to try civilians in certain cases, despite opposition from activists and rights groups.



Cairo: The panel drafting Egypt`s new constitution voted on Sunday to preserve the military`s wide-ranging powers, including the ability to try civilians in certain cases, despite opposition from activists and rights groups.

The charter will be submitted to a referendum early next year that has been billed as the first stage in a "democratic transition" promised by the military-installed authorities following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.

The charter in its present form allows the military to prosecute civilians in some cases, appoint the defence minister and keep its budget beyond any civilian scrutiny -- powers reserved by the legislature, executive and judiciary of most democratic countries.

More than 2,000 pro-Morsi university students meanwhile gathered in Cairo`s Tahrir Square in the biggest Islamist demonstration there since Morsi`s ouster. Tahrir was the epicentre of the 2011 revolt that toppled long-ruling president Hosni Mubarak.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters in Tahrir and another pro-Morsi demonstration near the High Court, the violence underscoring Egypt`s lingering polarisation nearly four months after the military deposed Morsi.

Morsi, Egypt`s first democratically elected president, was overthrown on July 3, and in mid-August the security forces launched a sweeping crackdown on his supporters which has left more than 1,000 people killed and thousands more jailed.

Today, authorities extended the detention of prominent secular activist Alaa Abdel Fattah by 15 days after he was arrested for holding an unauthorised demonstration against the provision in the draft charter allowing military trials of civilians.

His detention is expected to further anger secular activists who are furious over the provisions in the draft charter concerning the military. Another 24 activists also saw their detention extended by 15 days today.

The thorny issue of the insular military`s longstanding privileges was at the heart of voting on the constitution today after the 50-member panel drafting the new charter approved 138 of the 247 articles of the basic law the day before.

Today, the panel approved Article 204, which says that "no civilian can be tried by military judges, except for crimes of direct attacks on armed forces, military installations and military personnel."

Several secular activists had demonstrated against the provision, fearing it could be applied to protesters, journalists and dissidents.

From Zee News

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