Egyptian parties call for protest law amendment after activists jailed

Ahram Online, Sunday 26 Oct 2014

Constitution Party and Popular Current Party want the controversial protest law to be changed

The Constitution Party and the Popular Current Party renewed calls for the amendment of a law restricting protests after the jailing of 23 demonstrators on Sunday.

Twenty-three protesters were sentenced on Sunday to three years in prison for organising an illegal protest and not abiding by the provisions of the protest law.

The protest law, passed last November, requires protest organisers to notify authorities three days in advance of a planned demonstration. It has been highly criticised by some political parties and human rights groups.

The left-of-centre Constitution Party, who has three members convicted in the case, expressed its "shock" at the verdict on Sunday.

The party said the verdict asserts that the law should be amended as soon as possible especially as it has already been referred to the Supreme Constitutional Court.

The Constitution Party's statement added that the party firmly stands by the country's apparatus in its current "war against terrorism" but that the protest law was "especially tailored to punish the youth of the 25 January and 30 June revolutions".

The leftist Popular Current Party also expressed its rejection of the protest law in its current articulation, which "wastes all the gains of the revolution."

"It is unreasonable that tens of youths continue to be arrested under this law, while there are verdicts that release members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Mubarak-era figures," the statement read.

The Popular Current's statement asked for the release of all those detained under the provisions of the protest law, and the amendment of the law in a way that guarantees the right to peaceful protests without restrictions or limitations.

Egypt's National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) had previously stated that they were asked to participate in the amendment of the law. However, soon after a spokesman of the cabinet said that there is no intention to amend the law.

The 23 defendants were arrested on 21 June for their role in a demonstration calling for the appeal of the law.

The convicted include activist Sanaa Seif, sister of prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, rights activist and lawyer Yara Sallam, photojournalist Abdel-Rahman Mohamed of Al-Badil news website and photographer Rania El-Sheikh.

They have also been fined LE10,000 (approximately $1,390) each and ordered to be placed under police surveillance for three years after serving jail time.

A number of political parties endorsed a hunger strike in September in solidarity with political detainees accused of violating the protest law, with some of the detainees themselves as well as their families also participating in the hunger strike.

Sana Seif, 20, is the daughter of late well-known human rights advocate and lawyer Ahmed Seif El-Islam. She has been on hunger strike for almost two months to protest the notorious law and the "unjust" detainment of thousands under the legislation, according to her sister Mona Seif.

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