CAIRO -- Egypt's notorious emergency law expired yesterday, ending 31 years of broad powers to detain and arrest for a police force accused of severely abusing its far-reaching authority.

Since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, the security forces were empowered to detain and arrest people without charge, keep them locked up despite court releases and extract confessions under torture. Abuses almost always went unpunished. And at one point under the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak, human rights groups said there were more than 10,000 people in detention, many of them disappearing in Egyptian prisons.

"This is huge," said Hossam Bahgat, a human-rights activist who had campaigned for years for lifting the hated law. "What is really crucial is the message. The security forces operated under a culture that told them they were constantly above the law. Now they need to abide by the existing legislation and they won't enjoy any extralegal powers."

Last year's popular uprising that drove Mubarak from power was partly fueled by anger over police abuses of power. The lifting of the law was a key demand of the pro-democracy youth groups that engineered the uprising 15 months ago.---- AP

Latest videos

DON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access