December 10, 2012 / 1:50 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Egypt army gets temporary power to arrest civilians

CAIRO, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Egypt’s government has temporarily given the military the authority to arrest civilians to help safeguard a constitutional referendum planned for Saturday, the official gazette said.

The order, which a presidential official and military source confirmed appeared in the gazette late on Sunday, said the military would support police and liaise with them to protect “vital institutions” until the referendum result is declared.

The decree gave army officers the right to make arrests and transfer detainees to prosecutors.

Despite its limited nature, the edict will revive memories of Hosni Mubarak’s emergency law, also introduced as a temporary expedient, under which military or state security courts tried thousands of political dissidents and Islamist militants.

A cabinet source said ministers had reviewed the decree last week, saying troops had secured elections during a military-run transition after Mubarak, but with a civilian president now in charge they needed a decree to allow them to play that role.

On Saturday, the military urged rival political forces to solve their disputes via dialogue and said the opposite would drag the country into a “dark tunnel”, which it would not allow.

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