Egypt's cabinet to review laws on terrorism, parliamentary elections

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 30 Jun 2015

Egypt's cabinet is to discuss new laws aimed at fighting terrorism and regulating pending parliamentary elections on Wednesday

Minister of Transitional Justice and parliamentary affairs Ibrahim Al-Heneidy
Minister of Transitional Justice and parliamentary affairs Ibrahim Al-Heneidy (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Informed sources have said that the Egyptian cabinet's weekly meeting, expected on Wednesday, will give priority to discussing laws on terrorism and parliamentary elections.

Minister of Transitional Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim El-Heneidy told reporters this week that the justice ministry has recently finalised a new law on fighting terrorism.

"It is separate from a recent law on 'terrorist entities', but both complement each other," he said.

El-Heneidy explained that the new draft anti-terror law aims to toughen penalties on those funding terrorist activities and organisations.

"This is different from the terrorist entities law that designates which groups or organisations should be listed as terrorist, and what steps should be taken to counter them," he said.

Informed sources said that the assassination of prosecutor general Hisham Bakarat on Monday will dominate the cabinet's plenary meeting on Wednesday.

"The cabinet will discuss what urgent security and legal measures should be taken to safeguard Egypt from a new cycle of violence," an informed source within the transitional justice ministry said.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab met with Heneidy to receive the draft of the new anti-terror law. Mahlab also met with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's advisors for national security Fayza Abul Naga and Ahmed Gamaleddin.

"Laws will be amended within days so that the country can stand up to militants and achieve justice in the fastest way," President El-Sisi vowed, after attending a funeral for Barakat on Tuesday.

A number of legal experts such as Khaled Okasha, director of the National Centre for Security Studies, agreed that "a tougher law on terrorism should be issued as soon as possible to help counter militants and terrorists in the most effective way."

Sources said a new 52-article anti-terrorism law is expected to be reviewed by the cabinet on Wednesday. The law aims at stemming the tide of funding for terrorist activities and organisations, and giving new definitions for "terrorist crimes". The law will impose the death penalty on anyone convicted of funding a terrorist-labeled organisation.

Sources also indicated that the cabinet will also probe the possibility of amending the Criminal Procedures Law.

President El-Sisi said on Tuesday that the Criminal Procedures Law would be amended to help the judiciary achieve rapid and effective justice.

"Judges are shackled by this law, which must be changed to ensure fair and fast trials," said El-Sisi.

El-Sisi's words come after several legal experts and senior judges complained that the current Criminal Procedures Law, passed in 1937, does not help achieve justice in the best way.

Former prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud said in a TV interview that the law must be amended to cut trials short.

"The law in its current old form allows the trials of defendants accused of terrorist crimes to drag on, as it grants them the right to appeal verdicts twice," said Mahmoud. "Some trials take four years, during which time judges face death threats while defendants evade the sword of justice."

"As you see, since Muslim Brotherhood officials were referred to trial, no one has been handed a final verdict, while the country's prosecutor-general and three judges have so far been killed," said Mahmoud.

Parliamentary election laws

El-Heneidy also told the Ahram newspaper on Monday that the cabinet would also review three laws necessary to pave the way for Egypt's long-delayed parliamentary elections.

"The three laws are ready to be endorsed, as the State Council has finished revising them and the Higher Election Commission has raised no objections to them," said El-Heneidy.

El-Heneidy expects parliamentary elections to be held in September, he said.

"I hope security conditions will be good enough to allow these elections to be held as soon as possible," said El-Heneidy. "President El-Sisi has exerted a lot of pressure on the government, urging it to finalise the three election laws as soon as possible."

The three laws regulate the workings of the House of Representatives, the Division of Electoral Constituencies, and the Exercise of Political Rights.

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