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Egypt parliament votes in favour of death penalty for using ‎explosive materials in terrorist crimes

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 6 Mar 2018
Egyptian parliament
File Photo: A general view of the Egyptian parliament during a working session in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: AP)
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Egypt's parliament passed on Tuesday legislative amendments imposing the death penalty for using explosive materials in terrorist operations.

Both opposition and ‎majority MPs agreed that the amendments are necessary to help the state win its battle ‎against terrorist movements – particularly in North Sinai.‎

The government-drafted amendments of Egypt's penal code (law no.58/1937) were ‎approved first by parliament's Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee in a morning ‎meeting.

Head of the committee Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa said the amendments to Article ‎‎102 of the penal code go in line with the state's strategy to toughen penalties on ‎terrorism-related crimes.

"The new amendments address a wave of new crimes; that is ‎the use of explosive materials by terrorist groups to cause as much damage as possible," ‎said Abu Shoqa.‎

The MP said that the amendments also aim to impose penalties on those who do not ‎report the illegal possession of explosive materials before they are used in terrorist attacks. ‎

Abu Shoqa argued that the amendments come at a crucial time to serve the army and ‎police's comprehensive campaign – dubbed Operation Sinai 2018 – against terrorist groups in North Sinai.

"We know that terrorists in this part of Egypt were able ‎to acquire huge quantities of highly explosive materials that have led to killing tens of army and ‎police personnel," said Abu Shoqa.‎

The first paragraph of the amended Article 102 of the penal code now states that "those ‎who acquire, possess, import or manufacture bombs or explosive materials or the like ‎without getting a prior licence will be sentenced to life imprisonment, and are to face the ‎death penalty if the bombs and explosive materials are used for terrorism-related ‎purposes."

The article says that the "interior minister will issue a decree outlining the ‎materials that could be used in manufacturing bombs or explosives."‎

Family indictment

The fourth paragraph of the article received mixed reactions from MPs. It ‎states that anyone "who knows about those who acquired explosives or bombs illegally ‎and fail to report this to the concerned authorities in advance will be sentenced to ‎prison."‎

The government and the State Council decided to exempt spouses who ‎fail to report these crimes. Leftist MPs including Diaaeddin Dawoud said that such a provision would cause familial divisions ‎and great rifts within families.

Other MPs, however, insisted that the article should cover spouses.

"It will be very difficult for wives or husbands of ‎terrorists to report the latter's criminal intentions to authorities," said Dawoud.‎

Abu Shoqa, however, said that since the main objective of the amendments is to toughen ‎penalties on these types of crimes to prevent ‎terrorist acts, it would be illogical to exempt spouses from punishment.

"I want to point out that all ‎members of the legislative and constitutional affairs committee have agreed that the new tough ‎penalties should cover all those who [fail to report these crimes]... even if ‎they are wives and husbands of the criminals," said Abu Shoqa.

Independent MP Mohamed Abu Hamed said that "in many terrorist crimes that have caused great and wide-scale damage, wives and parents of ‎those who committed these crimes claimed that they had not known of the intentions of their ‎husbands or sons beforehand, but prosecutors later found out that they had ‎known in advance but refused to report them."

Abu ‎Hamed argued that "as a result, we should view this amendment as a deterrent ‎that aims to prevent some young people who join extremist groups from carrying out ‎terrorist crimes." ‎

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al said that although "in some tribal communities, such as in Upper Egypt, ‎this issue will be a very sensitive one," penalties should still be imposed on family members who knew of the crime.

"As we have seen in recent years, many have ‎used explosives and bombs to cause wide-scale damage and kill as many people as possible, and ‎we have seen that relatives of most of these terrorists and criminals played a role in ‎covering up their crimes," said Abdel-Aal, "so as a deterrent measure I see that it ‎will be important to stiffen penalties to include close relatives to force ‎families to report these crimes and thwart such dreadful attacks."‎

Abu Shoqa said that "the last paragraph of the amended Article 102 gives authorities ‎the right to sequestrate means of transport, tools, lands, and buildings or any other things ‎used to carry out these crimes."

"This is another deterrent ‎measure, because it was discovered that most terrorists and terrorist movements were ‎using desert farms or secluded buildings to hide weapons, bombs and explosives," said ‎Abu Shoqa.‎

Speaker Abdel-Aal said that it is good that both opposition and majority MPs have voted in ‎favour of the amendments.

"It is good that when the matter comes to supreme ‎national interests, all agree to put these interests above any partisan or political ‎considerations," said Abdel-Aal.

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