Free Egyptians Party blasts anti-demonstrations law

Ahram Online, Thursday 22 Mar 2012

Following a meeting in parliament discussing the legislation, Liberal Egyptian political ‎party, Thursday, opposes draft law aimed at regulating protests, comparing it to ‎restrictions imposed by former president Mubarak's regime

The liberal Free Egyptians Party on Thursday slammed a proposed law that regulates the right to demonstrate peacefully, emphasising that it would significantly restrict civil liberties.

According to Shorouk website, the statement came after the Human Rights Committee and the Constitutional & Legislative Affairs Committee met in the People's Assembly in order to discuss the proposed law on Wednesday.

During the meeting, deputies of the Legislative Affairs Committee highlighted the importance of not including punishment acts within the legislation. They argued that the Egyptian Penal Code encompasses enough penalties to cover incidences should demonstrators break the law.

In response, the People's Assembly set up a meeting in two weeks time with representatives from the Ministry of Justice in order to discuss all the suggestions proposed by the committees.

However, the Free Egyptians maintained that people should have the right to express civil liberties without any restrictions. The group also stressed that freedom of expression was one of the main demands of the January 25 Revolution, which called for a democratic nation under the slogan: 'bread, freedom and social justice."

The liberal party warned of the "dire consequences" of the proposed law, highlighting similarities to the restrictive legislation of the ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's regime.

The Free Egyptians also pointed out elements of the draft legislation, which could give the authorities the power to ban any protest without prior notice. In addition, according to the new law, violations result in a six months jail sentence and a penalty of LE 5,000.   

They called on all parties and political forces to oppose any attempts to restrict civil liberties particularly, the group said, after thousands of martyrs scarified their lives during the ongoing revolution for this very cause.  

This is not the first time Egyptian activists have complained about attempts to restrict their freedom since Mubarak's ouster.

In March 2011, the cabinet and the ruling military council sparked public outcry by releasing an anti-strike law. The legislation criminalised strikes, demonstrations and sit-ins that interrupted private or state-owned businesses or had a negative impact on the economy.

The law was seen as a major blow to the ongoing revolution, which was built on an act of civil disobedience when protesters occupied Tahrir Square.  

For decades, Egyptians were subjected to emergency law implemented by Mubarak in1981. This restrictive legislation, which criminalises political expression and allows the state to imprison people without trial, continued to be in place until it was technically lifted by the ruling military council in January 2012, nearly a year after Mubarak stepped down. However the military added a caveat, it can still be implemented in cases of "thuggery."

Since the start of the January 25 Revolution and through the transition period, thousands of civilian protesters have been detained as well as being subjected to illegal military trials.

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