CAIRO — Egypt's Justice Ministry warned Wednesday that the military has broad powers to arrest civilians in what appeared to be preparations for potential protests ahead of two critical court decisions expected today.
The announcement was the first such warning issued since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak 16 months ago and came one day before Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court is expected to issue rulings that could abruptly dissolve Egypt's first democratically elected Parliament and cancel this weekend's scheduled presidential runoff election.
Some interpreted the decree as foreshadowing the military's plan to extend its rule past July 1, when the new president is supposed to take over. Others said they thought that Egypt was now under martial law and that the announcement represented a continuation of Egypt's emergency law, which expired May 31.
Under Wednesday's announcement, the military will have broad powers to detain people until the government agrees on a new constitution, which will take at least six months.
The military seemed to be preparing for a possibly adverse reaction to today's rulings. Armored tanks and vehicles were arrayed outside the Constitutional Court building Wednesday night and protesters were heading toward the building in anticipation of the rulings in Cairo.