Egypt court bans protest in front of cabinet following interior ministry lawsuit

Ahram Online , Wednesday 11 Jan 2017

A protest at Cabinet
File photo of a protest outside the headquarter of the Egyptian Cabinet in April, 2013. (Photo: Ahram)

The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters banned on Wednesday protests in front of the cabinet building and "surrounding areas." The court ruled that protests sought outside of the cabinet headquarters must be held at Fustat Park, the only location in Cairo governorate where protests are allowed to take place without authorised permits or notifications.

The decision comes only a few days before a planned Saturday demonstration outside the cabinet headquarters in downtown Cairo, which has been called by several political parties to protest against the Egyptian-Saudi Red Sea island deal.

The ruling can still be appealed. 

Egypt's interior minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar filed the lawsuit this week to ban the protests one day after the protest's organisers said security officials had finally agreed to receive the protest notification outside the cabinet headquarters as mandated by the protest law.

Security officials had previously refused to receive the notification, pushing the organisers to postpone the protest to Saturday. 

Khaled Dawoud, one of the organisers and the spokesman for Egypt’s Democratic Coalition told Ahram Online on Wednesday that their legal team was currently reviewing the ruling to decide on next steps.

The Coalition includes several parties: the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Constitution Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and others.

"Filing an appeal against the ruling is among the procedures that we might implement," Dawoud said.

He added that a statement would be released by the end of the day following a meeting with the rest of the protest organisers, who include leaders from several parties.

Dawoud said he believes protest organisers should not be "obliged to protest at a certain place," referencing the court's decision to transfer protests sought outside the cabinet to Fustat Park.

Saturday's protest in front of the Cabinet's headquarters would have been the first official protest to be called for since a Higher Constitutional Court ruled in December that Article 10 of the controversial 2013 protest law, which permits the country’s interior minister to bar scheduled protests, was “unconstitutional.”

The court said that those looking to organise street protests should only be obliged to notify authorities beforehand and present documentation as required by law, and are not required to obtain prior approval.

Fustat Park, the only location in Cairo governorate where unauthorised protests are not banned according to the 2013 protest law, was the site of a few rallies in the past two years.

In February 2016, Zamalek fan group Ultras White Knights (UWK) gathered at the park to pay tribute to 20 fans who had been killed during a deadly stampede ahead of a league game in 2015.

Labour unions and workers' movements also protested at the park against a then-new and controversial civil service law in September 2015. 

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