Parliament has voted to extend emergency law by two years until June 2010 pending the formulation of new anti-terrorism legislation.

Emergency law has been in force in Egypt since the assassination of president Anwar Sadat in 1981. Under the law, the authorities can detain people for long periods without charge and try civilians before a military court. Human rights groups and members of the popular Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic movement and the largest opposition group in parliament, claim the legislation has been used to silence political dissent, with detainees in some cases being held for up to ten years without trial or charge.

Many fear that future anti-terrorism law will simply renew and extend the provisions of emergency law under a different name.

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