Egypt`s army rejects top prosecutor`s call for citizen arrests
Cairo: Egypt’s Prosecutor General, whose appointment in November triggered nationwide unrest, has come up with a controversial advice, encouraging citizens to arrest anyone breaking the law or committing a crime.
Prosecutor General Talat Ibrahim Abdullah`s advice was immediately dismissed by the Egyptian army which said it will not allow citizens to practise arrest powers. The call was criticised by liberals as an attempt to hand over such powers to Islamists who will use it to form vigilante groups taking over police duties at a time of growing tension and lawlessness affecting individual freedoms.
On the other hand, Islamists welcomed the decision which is in line with a recent call by the Jamah Islamiyah to establish a parallel ministry of interior, as they see the state`s ministry inefficient.
Meanwhile, Abdullah, appointed by President Mohammed Mursi in November last year, has said that the statement was misinterpreted. A statement from his office said the call was to activate article 37 from the criminal law which asks citizens to be proactive in arresting criminals if they catch them in action.
The statement issued yesterday said certain offences that require citizen arrests, and have been commonplace in Egypt in the two years since Hosni Mubarak`s autocratic regime was toppled, have been on the rise in recent weeks.
Among the offences are sabotaging state facilities, blocking roads, disrupting public transport, preventing state employees from reaching their workplace and terrorising citizens.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said yesterday that the police oppose the creation of vigilante groups, but he acknowledged that his force is strained. He said unidentified parties were trying to undermine his ministry and he pleaded with the nation`s rival political forces to leave the police out of their disputes.
Meanwhile, the former jihadist group Gamaa Islamiya has begun enrolling followers in the southern province of Assiut, one of its main strongholds. Before it renounced violence, Gamaa Islamiya played a key part in an anti-government insurgency in the 1990s. Now, it says the police strike and civil disobedience, like that seen in the coastal city of Port Said are part of a conspiracy to topple Mursi`s administration. The striking police are demanding better job conditions. Some also are protesting what they see as attempts by Mursi`s Muslim Brotherhood to control the force.
Ibrahim, the interior minister, sought to downplay the gravity of the situation, saying the striking policemen constituted only a small part of the force.