CAIRO - Egypt's justice minister on Wednesday granted the army the right to arrest civilians, after such powers expired with the lifting of the decades-old state of emergency last month.
Adel Abdel Hamid issued a decision granting army personnel -- including military intelligence and military police -- the right to detain civilians.
The measure will take effect on Thursday and remain in place at least until a new constitution is written.
On Tuesday, parliament elected a commission tasked with drafting the country's new charter but the process could take months.
The army took the job of policing during the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak last year, when police largely disappeared from the streets following days deadly clashes with protesters.
But their right to arrest civilians ended on May 31 when the controversial state of emergency was lifted.
"The decision fills a legal vacuum, as the army is still on the streets even after the state of emergency was lifted," Adel al-Mursi, the head of military justice, told reporters.
The decision is likely to infuriate activists and protesters, who have campaigned for years for an end to the state of emergency, which granted police wide powers of arrest and was often used to curb dissent.
The measure comes just days before a presidential election runoff between ex-premier Ahmed Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi.