Revolutionary groups plan multiple protests against emergency laws

Mostafa Ali, Friday 16 Sep 2011

Activists reject government claim that expanded emergency laws apply only to acts of thuggery, plan push to abolish them altogether

A protester scuffles with a riot policeman as he demonstrates in downtown Cairo, 25 January(Photo: AP)

The Revolutionary Youth Union (RYU), one of the main youth groups born out of the January 25 Revolution that ousted former-president Hosni Mubarak, is proceeding with its plan to lead a rally in Tahrir Square on Friday against the ruling military council.

RYU is demanding the ruling military council (SCAF) rescind its recent decision to expand Mubarak-era emergency laws, and to scrap these laws all together. The Union also wants SCAF to set a timetable to hand power to a civilian administration after spending eight months in power following Mubarak’s ousting.

Earlier this week, after a weekend of violent clashes between protesters and police at the Israeli embassy, SCAF issued decree 193, which expanded Mubarak-era emergency laws to cover a new slew of vaguely defined criminal violations.

SCAF will now use emergency laws, which Mubarak used against common criminals and political opponents alike, to prosecute new crimes such as 'infringing on others' right to work', 'impeding the flow of traffic', and 'spreading false information in the media'.

SCAF also extended the life of these laws, which were set to expire late this year, until May 2012.

Amr Hamed, a leading member of RYU, told Ahram Online that his group has distributed 40,000 copies of a leaflet that details its opposition to SCAF’s move in working class neighbourhoods around Cairo.

“We chose to go back to Tahrir because the square is still the symbol of the Egyptian Revolution,” Hamed added.

However, Friday’s rally in Tahrir is not expected to draw more than a few thousand protesters.

For one, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Egypt’s largest organised political force, which also declared its opposition to SCAF’s decision on emergency laws, called on its supporters not to attend Friday’s demonstration.

Mohamed El-Katatney, head of the Justice and Freedom Party, the MB’s political party, called on Brotherhood supporters to boycott the rally.

Katatney and other MB leaders explained that their party is not opposed to the idea of applying bottom-up pressure on SCAF but prefers to do so after meticulous coordination among various political forces.

An ad hoc coalition of 15 left wing and revolutionary groups met earlier this week and decided not to endorse the Friday action in favour of taking more time to prepare a larger response to SCAF.

The coalition issued a joint statement denouncing SCAF’s decision to expand emergency laws, charging that the generals used last weekend’s clashes as a pretext to clamp down on freedom of speech and revolutionary activities.

The coalition includes the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, the Popular Socialist Alliance, the Revolutionary Socialists and the Democratic Front for Justice. Its statement called on supporters to join a mass march from Tahrir square to the headquarters of the cabinet at 5pm on Monday 20 September.

So far, the Muslim Brotherhood has not announced if it intends to support Monday’s march.

Meanwhile, Mahenour El-Masry, a socialist activist in Alexandria told Ahram Online that since early this week hundreds of activists have been organising daily pickets on a daily in Egypt’s second largest city against SCAF’s use of emergency laws.

"Activists from April 6th Movement, No to Military Trials group and youth supporters of presidential candidate ElBaradei were among those who took the lead in turning out to protest emergency laws," Mahenour added.

The Egyptian cabinet and the ruling military council have tried in public statements to assure activists that revamped emergency provisions will only target common criminal activities and will not be applied against political activists.

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