Sabahi vows to revoke protest law if he becomes Egypt's president

Ahram Online, Saturday 3 May 2014

In a 14-minute pre-recorded speech on State TV, Hamdeen Sabahi reveals highlights of his electoral programme

Hamdeen Sabahi
Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi (video snapshot)

Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi promised in a speech aired on State TV Saturday that he would annul the controversial protest law if elected Egypt's president.

"I will put a stop to the working with the protest law, and will re-issue a law that regulate and not ban peaceful protesting," said Sabahi in a 14-minute speech.

Thousands — including loyalists to deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi along with non-Islamist activists — have been rounded up since the law, which proscribes all but police-sanctioned demonstrations, was implemented last November.

Several prominent activists, including member of Sabahi's Popular Current Ahmed Douma, are currently serving jail sentences over charges of violating the law. In April, Douma urged Sabahi to withdraw from the presidential race, where he is facing-off with ex-army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, "until the protest law is revoked and all detainees are freed."

Sabahi's speech Saturday aimed at introducing highlights of his electoral programme.

He also promised to pardon all "opinion detainees," affirming that prisons in Egypt are only a place for "terrorists and criminals" and those who incite violence, adding that no one should be jailed in Egypt for his opinion.

"We have given a lot of sacrifices and yet haven't gained what we deserve of a life of dignity ... Our path to a dignified life is for this people and the goals of their [January 25] revolution to reach the state's authority," said Sabahi in the pre-recorded video.

The Nasserist candidate who along with rival El-Sisi has officially launched his campaign Saturday ahead of the voting process at the end of the month, stressed that his electoral programme will be focused on radical reform of a state that for too long has been swamped with failure and corruption.

He underlined the need for enforcing social justice, a state based on the rule of law, the eradication of any form of discrimination.

He further pointed out the need to withdraw the army from "political and electoral conflicts" whilst developing and arming it for its role in securing the country.

Sabahi also said uprooting terrorism and poverty (as one of its main reasons) is necessary, in addition to establishing transitional justice that will realise just retribution for the martyrs and injured of the revolution.

"Together we'll build an active state in the modern world ... a state that will be part of the principles of human rights and respect its duties in defending the rights of its Arab world and the rights of the Arab Palestinian people," Sabahi said.

"I will call for the establishment of a regional entity for Nile Basin states; there will no room for rivalry between the Nile Basin countries," said Sabahi, emphasising that Egypt has the ability to reserve its share in Nile River water while also cooperating with and respecting Nile Basin countries.

He added that he respects all treaties and agreements signed by the Egyptian state. However, he said that Egypt retains the right to change its commitments if it is in the national security interest to do so, and in accordance with the rules and procedures of international law.

He further expressed his hope for "an honourable competition with no backstabbing or personal conflicts," in reference to the presidential campaign.

In March, State TV aired the speech of then-Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi where he announced that he would be leaving the military in order to run in the presidential race. The airing of the speech and the publishing of its transcription by the official Facebook page of the Armed Forces spokesman was criticised by Sabahi's campaign as a form of "state bias" towards El-Sisi.

In response, Sabahi's campaign issued an official request for their candidate to be given an equal chance to air his candidacy announcement on State TV.

Sabahi's Saturday speech, aired at 5pm, will be again televised at 10pm, according to his campaign.

Egypt's presidential poll will be held on 26-27 May with a new president expected to be announced by June.

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