Egypt panel votes on army powers

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CAIRO: A panel resumes voting on Sunday on the final draft of a new constitution for Egypt, with the spotlight expected to be on articles regulating the military’s powers and privileges.

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If adopted, the charter will be put to a popular referendum early next year in the first milestone of the military-installed government’s transition roadmap.

This is set to be followed by presidential and parliamentary elections in mid-2014.

On Saturday’s first day of voting the 50-member panel approved 138 of the 247 articles of the draft charter.

Those articles included one stipulating that Islamic sharia law will be the main source of legislation, as was also the case during the regime of toppled ruler Hosni Mubarak.

The other main article approved was one forbidding the formation of religious parties or parties based on religious grounds.

On Sunday, articles 204 and 234 are set to be the focus.

These concern the Egyptian military which led the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July after millions of people called for his resignation after just one year in office.

Article 204 says that “no civilian can be tried by military judges, except for crimes of direct attacks on armed forces, military installations and military personnel.”

Secular artists have demonstrated against the provision, saying it could be applied to protesters, journalists and dissidents.

Activists and rights groups say that the draft charter also fails to curb the powers and privileges of the military.

Article 234 stipulates that the defense minister be appointed in agreement with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, although panel spokesman Mohammed Salmawy said this clause will apply only for the first two presidential terms.

The draft constitution also ensures that the military’s budget remains beyond civilian scrutiny.

AFP

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