Egypt cabinet approves draft bill criminalising possession of 'terrorist symbols'

Ahram Online , Wednesday 13 Jan 2016

Stickers, publications, displays, photography or badges and other tools which show sympathy to terrorist groups could lead to fines and jail sentences, according to a draft bill

Egypt Prime Minister Sherif Ismail (Reuters)
Egypt Prime Minister Sherif Ismail (Reuters)

The Egyptian cabinet approved on Wednesday a draft bill that punishes the possession and distribution of stickers, posters and photographs that "stand for terrorist organisations."

The draft bill, which adds a new article to the existing criminal code, was proposed to the cabinet by the presidency.

The article says that violators are "jailed and fined a minimum monetary fine of LE10,000 and a maximum of LE30,000... for posting, producing, promoting, importing, exporting, transporting or possessing, with intention to trade, distribute, rent or display any printed material, badges, drawings, posters, signs, handmade paintings, photography, or symbolic graphics... that constitute symbols of terrorist organisations, [local or international]."

A decision specifying which signs or drawings would be considered symbols of terrorist entities will be issued later. 

The article also imposes the same penalties on those who knowingly or unknowingly abet violators, whether the prohibited materials were prepared for distribution or put on display.  

The law also criminalises those who possess any means/equipment of print, recording and broadcasting used to disseminate any material deemed "terrorist" by the authorities.

Egyptian criminal law punishes protesting without permit, inciting violence and disturbing social peace.

In the past two years, thousands of Egyptians have been arrested, tried and jailed for violating this law. 

Meanwhile, a number of individuals have already been arrested or jailed for using symbols that the government deems tools which incite violence. 

In late 2013, a 15-year-old student was arrested for possessing a ruler bearing the "Rabaa symbol," which supporters of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi use to symbolise their fight against the post-2013 government. He was later released.

In January, a Cairo court renewed the detention of high school student Mahmoud Mohamed Hussein, who has been detained without trial for over 700 days and accused of possessing ammunition and protesting illegally. However, supporters and family say he was arrested for wearing a shirt with the words "Nation Without torture" and a scarf with the 2011 uprising logo. Human rights groups have described Hussein' as a "prisoner of conscience," and campaign for his release.

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