[JURIST] An Egyptian criminal court on Sunday ordered 16 members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) [party website; JURIST news archive] released on bail [MB press release], including deputy chairman Mahmoud Ezzat and spokesperson Essam al-Erian. The members of MB, which has been banned in Egypt [JURIST news archive], were arrested in February and charged with plotting to overthrow the Egyptian government. The MB has called those charges "concocted." The Egyptian government has often used the country's emergency laws [FIDH backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to arrest and indefinitely detain individuals it considered a threat to state security. This includes the MB, which the Egyptian government has accused of trying to create an Islamic theocracy through violence. There has been no indication of when the 16 individuals will be released.
In the past, Egypt has also used the emergency laws extensively against other opposition parties. In July, the trial of 26 individuals with alleged ties to Hezbollah was transferred to a court [JURIST report] established under the emergency laws. In February 2009, a military court utilized the laws during a trial in which it sentenced [JURIST report] opposition leader Magdy Ahmed Hussein to two years in prison. The emergency laws have been in effect continuously since the 1981 assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and were renewed [JURIST report; JURIST op-ed] most recently in May 2008. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] sharply criticized the renewal [JURIST report], saying the move showed "contempt for the rule of law."