Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Sunday declared a state of emergency in an attempt to quell growing unrest and violent political protest in cities along the Suez Canal including Port Said, Ismailia and Suez. Clashes between Islamic and liberal factions have resulted in hundreds of injuries and at least 50 deaths since last Thursday. The Egyptian cabinet responded Monday by approving legislation [BBC report] that gives already-deployed military personnel the authority and mandate to arrest and detain alleged instigators upon the president's order. Reports indicate that arrestees will still have access to the judicial system. Protests stem from divided loyalty over Morsi's Islamic political predisposition. Liberal factions have reportedly claimed that Morsi's policies seek to supplant democratic ideals underpinning the Egyptian Revolution [JURIST backgrounder] while Islamic factions assert that liberals seek to undermine the revolution by violently overthrowing the nation's first democratically elected president. Nationwide unrest has reportedly compounded since an Egyptian court handed down 21 death penalties [JURIST report] on Saturday for a 2012 soccer riot that resulted in 74 deaths and thousands of injuries. According to media sources, military personnel will oversee the state of emergency by enforcing strict nightly curfews for one month, but many Egyptian citizens have already allegedly asserted their plans to defy the military rule [Reuters report].
Egypt has been plagued by protests and violence since the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution two years ago. Last week, an Egyptian rights group reported [JURIST report] that police abuse and torture continue to be ongoing issues and that police conduct has not improved since the abuses faced under the old regime. In December, Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court indefinitely halted operations [JURIST report] amid pressure from protestors aiming to block judges from meeting to rule on the validity of the country's new constitution. Supporters of Morsi flooded the court and blocked the judges from entering to hear a case that would permit them to dissolve the constituent assembly that drafted the new constitution. Protests have increased since Morsi signed Egypt's new constitution [JURIST report] into law in December. Only 32.9 percent of Egypt's total of 52 million voters actually participated in the referendum, leading many to debate its results.