Egyptian rulers under pressure end notorious emergency laws

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CAIRO — Egypt’s military ruler on Tuesday decreed a partial lifting of the nation’s hated emergency laws, an apparent attempt to ease criticism of his policies.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi said in a televised address that the draconian laws, in force for more than three decades, would be lifted effective Wednesday but would remain applicable to crimes committed by “thugs.” The military has often labeled organizers of anti-government demonstrations “thugs.”

Tantawi’s decision to partially lift the emergency laws, which give police far-reaching powers, would likely not satisfy rights groups that have been campaigning for their total removal.

Rights groups say at least 12,000 civilians have been tried before military tribunals since the military council took power. Many of them, they say, were charged with acts of “thuggery” when, in fact, they were protesters.

The term also has been used to ridicule the military in the independent press, and some of the young protesters in recent demonstrations have been chanting, “we are thugs!” At least 80 protesters have been killed by troops since October.