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Egypt Leader Says Democracy is Back    02/13 15:00

   CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's president said Saturday that his country has 
established democratic and constitutional rule after years of turmoil following 
the 2011 uprising, but rights groups say he has presided over an unprecedented 
crackdown on dissent.

   President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi declared the completion of Egypt's 
transition to democratic rule in a 32-minute address to parliament, a 
596-member chamber packed with his supporters.

   In practices reminiscent of Egypt's past autocratic regimes, state 
television labeled the president's speech "historic" before it started, and 
some lawmakers, in a show of patriotism, placed Egypt's red, black and white 
flags before them in the chamber. Several others greeted el-Sissi's arrival in 
the chamber with shouts of "We love you, Mr. President!"

   When his speech was later interrupted by the same chant, he replied: "I love 
you too!"

   El-Sissi acknowledged that the country is still struggling to rebuild its 
economy and combat Islamic extremists, but said it had succeeded in restoring 
representative government.

   "From this place, under parliament's dome, the Egyptian people declare to 
the entire world that they have laid the foundation of a democratic system and 
rebuilt constitutional institutions," he said in a speech that largely 
consisted of generalities and was repeatedly interrupted by applause.

   The former general led the 2013 military overthrow of President Mohammed 
Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected and first Islamist leader, amid mass 
protests against his divisive yearlong rule.

   Since then, the government has waged a massive crackdown on dissent, jailing 
thousands of Islamists as well as several prominent secular activists who led 
the 2011 revolt that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. A draconian law 
passed in November 2013 prohibits all unauthorized protests.

   Over the past week, Egypt has faced allegations that security forces were 
behind the abduction, torture and killing of an Italian researcher who 
disappeared on Jan. 25, the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising, when police 
were out in force to prevent any demonstrations. Egypt's Interior Ministry has 
denied the police had any involvement in the killing and insists it was a 
criminal act, but the incident has strained ties with Rome.

   Egypt has also seen protests this week against police brutality held by the 
doctors' syndicate, after two doctors were allegedly beaten up by police in a 
Cairo hospital. Anger at police brutality was one of the main grievances behind 
the 2011 uprising.

   El-Sissi did not mention either incident, and commended the police on "their 
care for the security and stability of the nation and the protection of its 

   "We must be aware that there are those waiting in the wings who don't want 
this nation to be an exception to the fate of some nations in our turbulent 
region and to hinder our national project for development and stability," he 

   Egypt has been battling an insurgency led by a local affiliate of the 
extremist Islamic State group based in the northern part of the Sinai 
Peninsula. Militant attacks, mainly targeting security forces, have spiked 
since Morsi's ouster.

   A military officer and a soldier were killed Saturday while dismantling an 
explosive device in northern Sinai, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed 
Samir said on his official Facebook page. He said another soldier was wounded 
in the incident.


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