Surprise court ruling ending state of emergency catches government off guard

AP

A court declared that Egypt’s 3-month-old state of emergency expired Tuesday, two days earlier than expected, but the military and security officials held off from implementing the ruling and lifting a nighttime curfew, amid worries that the measures’ end will fuel protests by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

Morsi, meanwhile, held his first extensive meeting with lawyers in a prison near the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He had been held in secret military detention with almost no contact with the outside world since he was ousted in a July 3 popularly backed coup, but he was moved to a regular prison last week after the first session of his trial on charges of inciting murder.

The state of emergency and a nighttime curfew imposed along with it have been aimed at helping authorities tighten their security grip and control on near daily protests that frequently descended into violence by pro-Morsi supporters and his Muslim Brotherhood demanding his reinstatement and the reversal of what they call an illegal coup against democracy.

On Monday, Interior Minister Mahmoud Ibrahim, who heads the security forces, said the state of emergency would expire on Thursday and that security reinforcements would deploy in the streets at that time — a sign of the worries over intensified protests.

The surprise ruling by the Cairo Administrative Court ordering the lifting Tuesday appeared to have caught the government off guard — and authorities said they were not immediately implementing it until the court formally notifies them of the decision.

The confusion came because the state of emergency was initially announced for a month on Aug. 14. But the government renewed it for another two months on Sept. 12. The court said that means it ends on Nov. 12, not Nov. 14.