EU expresses concern about emergency laws in Egypt

The European Union expressed concern Tuesday about the arrests and jailings of demonstrators in Egypt and the country's recent decision to extend emergency laws it had promised to lift. In a statement from officials in Austria, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, the 25-nation bloc called the police operation "disproportionate" and questioned arrests made under the provisions of emergency laws that let Egyptian authorities take people into custody without an arrest warrant.

The EU said it hoped Egypt would not again extend the emergency laws beyond 2008, noting that President Hosni Mubarak had promised in 2005 to repeal the measures and ensure they were used only to combat terrorism, not target the political opposition.

"The European Union calls on the Egyptian government to allow civil society activists and other political forces to express themselves freely, to permit peaceful demonstrations and freedom of assembly and to maintain public order by transparent and proportionate legal procedure," the statement said. Scores of activists have been arrested during demonstrations in recent weeks to support two Egyptian judges facing disciplinary action after they blew the whistle on election fraud. Egypt renewed the emergency laws last month, reports the AP.