1328 GMT: Egypt. Amnesty International has condemned a new decree that would allow the military to arrest civilians, seemingly without cause. While the decree, passed Wednesday, was subject to Parliamentary vote, after Thursday's Supreme Court decisions, there is no Parliament, which would seem to leave the decree unchallengeable. Amnesty's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui released this statement:
The end of Egypt's long-standing state of emergency was an opportunity for the authorities to end decades of abuses that have corroded the country's justice system.
Yet we fear this latest decision signals that instead of ushering in proper reform, the authorities are intent on holding on tight to the emergency powers they enjoyed for so long.
1312 GMT: Egypt. Some are expecting the former Mubarak Prime Minister and ally, Ahmed Shafiq, to win the Presidential elections. For starters, there is a backlash against the Muslim Brotherhood from the secular and liberal corners, as well as from the Christians who fear the rise of an Islamic party. Combine these corners with support from supporters of Mubarak, and also look at the disappointment in the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership as of late, and Shafiq begins to look like the favorite.
However, after a decree that could essentially amount to martial law, and the Supreme Court decisions that some are calling a soft coup, many voices in the Egyptian community are now calling for a boycott of the upcoming Presidential elections.
Those voices include prominent writer Alaa al-Aswany, as well as prominent activist and political figure Mohamed ElBaradei. The most liberal voices are disgusted at the Shafiq candidacy, seeing him as the reinstatement of the Mubarak regime, and are also turned off by the Muslim Brotherhood. If the liberal boycott the election, could this help the Brotherhood's Frreedom and Justic Party candidate, Mohamed Morsi?
0915 GMT: Bahrain. Sheikh Ali Salman, the head of the opposition society Al Wefaq, has said that any "humanitarian government" would recognise the people of Bahrain when they take to the streets with their demands, as "it is impossible" to leave those demands behind.
Salman cited the calls for an independent judicial system without discriminatory practices and for a new Constitution meeting the wishes of the people.
0750 GMT: Bahrain. The US State Department has expressed unhappiness with Thursday's decision by a Bahraini court to uphold prison sentences, albeit with reduced terms in most cases, on 11 medics arrested amid the protests from February 2011.
“While sentences were reduced, we are deeply disappointed by these convictions, and that the Bahraini government did not use alternative means to address these cases,” Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner, who is visiting the Kingdom, told a press conference. These convictions appear to be based, at least in part, on the defendants’ criticisms of government actions and policies.”
Nine other defendants had their sentences, which had been up to 15 years, quashed.
0510 GMT: Egypt. Many observers expected Thursday's ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court allowing Ahmed Shafiq, the last Vice President in the Mubarak regime, to stand in Sunday's Presidential run-off against the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi.
What was far from expected was the further decision that part of this winter's Parliamentary elections were unconstitutional, efffectively dissolving the legislature.
Mohammed El Beltagy, the Vice-President of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), called the sequence of events a "fully fledged coup", a sentiment shared by observers and activists across the political spectrum.
However, Morsi indicated that he would still run in Sunday's Presidential election, saying that this was not a seizure of power by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and adding, "I love the military forces."
The Court had ruled that allowing parties to put up members for seats for "independents" in the Parliamentay elections --- one-third of the total --- had discriminated against the independent candidates.