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Egypt's political movements, parties campaign to revoke protest law

Ahram Online speaks with political movements and parties on why they want the protest law revoked and how they hope to make it happen

Passant Darwish , Wednesday 16 Apr 2014
Protesters jogging
Protesters jogging across Qasr El-Nile bridge in downtown Cairo, April 13, 2014 (Photo: courtesy of the Reuters-affiliated Aswat Masriya news website)
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Views: 2647

A number of Egyptian political movements and parties have started a nationwide campaign calling for the country's controversial protest law to be revoked and for all those detained under it to be released.

The protest law, issued last November, has sparked anger among human rights activists and political parties for containing articles that require protest organisers to notify authorities three days in advance of a protest's aims and demands while also imposing heavy jail terms and fines on those who break the law.

The Way of the Revolution Front, an anti-military and anti-Muslim Brotherhood coalition, along with April 6 and a number of youth movements and political parties have called for a series of events against the protest law, culminating in a protest in front of Ittihadiya presidential palace on 26 April.

The events included a marathon last week under the slogan "Revoke the Law, the Streets are Ours". Participating in the marathon was prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who was released in late March after more than 100 days in detention for breaking the protest law and is currently awaiting trial.

Other activities included a conference that gave families of those detained under the law a chance to speak about their situation, like how hard it is to pay the law's stipulated fines, which can reach up to LE100, 000.

This week, the campaign mobilised protesters on Wednesday to form human chains from the beginning of 6 October Bridge until the Cairo Opera House, on the other side of the Nile. The human chains were also present in other Egyptian governorates.

Jehan Shabaan, from the Way of Revolution Front, told Ahram Online that the call for "the events comes now because more people are being given final sentences under the law, after their appeals have been rejected."

Hundreds have participated in the protests so far, said Khaled El-Sayed, a founding member of the Way of Revolution Front.

El-Sayed said that the movement against the protest law has not been restricted to just street protests and activities. There has also been a conference where prominent lawyers like Ahmed Seif and Amr Imam argued why the law was unconstitutional.

However, no concrete plans have been made after the 26 April protest at the presidential palace.

"We will either decide on an open-ended protest, declare a strike or leave after the day is done and later convene to decide other escalations," Zizo Abdo, from April 6 Youth Movement, told Ahram Online. "It all depends on how the day goes," he added.

The events will also include women-only demonstrations on 22 April, organised by Nourhan Hefzy, the wife of activist Ahmed Douma, who is in prison for violating the protest law.

Douma, along with 6 April founding members Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, was given three years in prison and fined LE50,000 last December on charges that included organising a protest without a police permit.

The fate of the three activists seemed to be sealed earlier this month when an appeals court upheld their verdict. Although the verdict can still be appealed to the Court of Cassation, its proceedings are notorious for extending for indefinite amounts of time.

Spokesman for the Constitution Party Khaled Dawoud told Ahram Online that his party is not opposed to regulating protests but that the current protest law gives the interior ministry the power to either accept or reject peaceful protests. He also added that the law has harsh penalties that especially target youth.

"No country in the world would send their youth to prison for peaceful protests," he added.

Twelve members of the Constitution Party have been detained on charges of violating the protest law, two of which, according to Dawoud, have been given final sentences of two years in prison each.

Dawoud said the Constitution Party, and political parties in general, did not expect their members to be detained on charges of breaking a protest law, especially after participating in the 30 June protests that led to the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

Dawoud said that his party is hopeful that their demands will be heard, especially after interim President Adly Mansour called on the general prosecution to review similar cases against detained student protesters. 

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Aladdin, Egypt
17-04-2014 06:58pm
No country would allow civil disobedience and absolute right to attack society. It will be the law of jungle. You must obtain obey the law or take a hike to prison. Allah Akber, Tahya Misr.
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17-04-2014 07:19am
The law itself is not unreasonable, but the penalty is absurd.
Here in the US, we must apply for a permit, specify the nature of the protest/demonstration and are limited to public property and never disrupt traffic or be disorderly. Further, the traffic in US is nothing compared to Cairo. With the proper notification, the police come and monitor the demonstration and protect demonstrators from any harassment. Without that notification people who disapprove of the demonstration subject can file complaints and force the demonstrators to be removed. However, the penalty in Egypt for not following the law is excessive and needs to change
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17-04-2014 02:45am
Right on
"No country in the world would send their youth to prison for peaceful protests," he added." That really says it all. No sane leadership would try to destroy the country it is ruling by warring against its youth. Those who fought against the youth will in time be defeated by them and the tide of progress.
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18-04-2014 08:02pm
This law is not about regulating protests; it is about power
What would be idiotic would be to assume that all protests are non-peaceful. By establishing a blanket belief that protesters are invariably violent, vile beings who should be imprisoned, one underimes the June 30 protests, as the same logic can be applied to them. Only a fraction of those who are currently in prison actually fit the mould of violent protesters who committed crimes. The trouble is that the protest law is mostly used as an excuse to crackdown on the country's youth and stop positive changes from being advocated. The law is intended to help dictatorship, not for "counterterrorism" or some other false claim. Also, prison torture is worse than what most of the imprisoned protesters did.
17-04-2014 10:42pm
True... But you are not being truthful.... Peaceful protests??? Really???
Peaceful protests is your false assumption. Any idiot knows there has not been a peaceful protest, especially by those who are in cages where they belong.

16-04-2014 09:02pm
Fine of LE 10000 fairer given private economy conditions in Egypt.
Even in European countries fines tend to ruin whole families. At least this should be reconsidered. And couldn't a partial amnesty reducing prison time at least in anti-Morsi protest cases which are understandable after all take place - now the protest law has been put in place as well as applied? People must have realized meanwhile that it is meant seriously and that you cannot demonstrate whenever you feel like it, without notice 3 days ahead - a really not undue request! El-Sisi could still have all the popular support he‘ll be needing to reform Egypt from its actual stand - as the protest law wouldn't completely have disappeared!
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