An Egyptian court ordered an end to a state of emergency Tuesday, two days ahead of schedule and three months after it was imposed during a crackdown on Islamist protesters.
The decision was welcomed by long-time ally the United States, which sounded a note of caution by urging the military-installed government to “respect the rights of all Egyptians” amid reports it is preparing to tighten rules on protests.
The cabinet said it would respect the ruling but would wait for official notification from the court before implementing it.
The state of emergency, accompanied by a nighttime curfew, had been scheduled to expire on Thursday.
“The government is committed to implement judicial rulings… The government is waiting for the text of the ruling,” a statement said.
Interim president Adly Mansour declared the state of emergency on August 14, as violence gripped Egypt after police dispersed two large protest camps in Cairo set up by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
Hundreds of people, mainly Morsi supporters, were killed in clashes that erupted during the crackdown, while Islamists elsewhere in the country retaliated by attacking security forces and Christian churches, businesses and homes, mostly Coptic.
The administrative court said in its ruling, which had dismissed an appeal against the state of emergency, that it ended on Tuesday according to its calculation, the official MENA news agency reported.
Both the interior ministry and the military said they would continue to enforce the nightly curfew until they received official notification.
“The armed forces have not been officially notified of any court rulings, and are committed to implementing the curfew within designated hours,” it said in a statement.
Before Monday’s court ruling the curfew was being imposed between 2300 GMT and 0300 GMT.
According to an interim constitution decreed by Mansour, extending the state of emergency any longer would have required a referendum.
The state of emergency granted broad powers of arrest to soldiers deployed on the streets, especially during curfew hours.
“In practice, the state of emergency was only being used for the curfew and arrest powers for the military,” said Heba Morayef, head of Human Rights Watch in Egypt.
“It was the symbolism. The interior ministry seems to have this belief that repressive laws are a deterrent.”
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said: “We welcome the formal lifting of the state of emergency including the curfew.
“However, we would also note that the government is considering other legislation regarding security. We urge the government to respect the rights of all Egyptians.”
Mansour is on the verge of issuing a decree tightening regulations on protests and labour strikes, which has sparked a backlash, even from other members of government and its supporters.
Egypt has been under almost continuous emergency law since 1967, with breaks in 1981 and after president Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in early 2011.
The scope of the emergency law was gradually whittled down under Mubarak and by courts following the strongman’s ouster.
More than 2,000 Islamists, including most of the top leadership of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, have been arrested since the overthrow of the president, who has also been jailed.
But the majority of those arrested since Morsi’s overthrow were not rounded up under emergency law provisions, Morayef said.
The state of emergency also allowed authorities to place Mubarak under house arrest in a hospital after his maximum period of detention expired in September.
On trial for alleged involvement in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising, Mubarak may be forced back to jail with the end of the state of emergency, now that the government has amended the law to allow for a longer detention period during trial.