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Egyptian PM defends contentious protest law

Hazem El-Beblawi reaffirms government's support for the new legislation despite domestic and international criticism

Ahram Online , Monday 2 Dec 2013
Egypt’s PM
Egypt's Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi (Photo: Reuters)
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Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi on Monday reiterated his support for a new protest law that has provoked widespread controversy.

“The law is like all laws; it's for regulating protests… whoever breaks the system and threatens citizens and assaults buildings must be punished,” said El-Beblawi during an interview with the state-owned station Radio Masr.

The protest law, issued last week by interim President Adly Mansour, requires protest organisers to notify authorities at least three days prior to the date of any demonstration of more than ten people. Organisers must give police details of the protest's location, aims and demands, and failure to comply with the law's provisions may be punished with fines or jail terms.

A number of local and international human rights organisations have voiced their opposition to the law, describing it as repressive, while Egyptian activists have organised protests against the law.

Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa El-Din had also implied his dissatisfaction of the law and support for the idea of amending it. In a Saturday interview with London-based paper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that he said that he "held reservations against this law, the way it was discussed, passed and the timing of its issuing."

Bahaa El-Din added that there would be "no harm" in revising the law.

El-Beblawi, in his comments on Monday, said that the new law is concerned with securing and protecting protests, and that when a demonstration is cancelled it is out of safety concerns regarding protesters and not out of the government’s fear of the protest.

He further pointed out that objecting to the law is normal, giving an example of a recently-issued protest law in Spain that met with opposition.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon last week criticised the law, issuing a statement on 27 November saying that the law "could lead to serious breaches of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly."

El-Beblawi on Monday stated that Ban’s statement came without prior reading of the Egyptian law. He also queried whether he would take the same stance regarding the Spanish law.

 

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