Egypt protest law should pass before emergency ends: Deputy PM

Ahram Online, Sunday 3 Nov 2013

Deputy PM Hossam Eissa says cabinet has amended protest law and should send it to president soon

Hossam Eissa (Photo: Al-Ahram).

Egypt's cabinet has amended the controversial draft protest law and will send it to the president for approval soon, Deputy Prime Minister Hossam Eissa has said

In an interview on the privately-owned Al-Hayat satellite channel, Eissa said he did not know exactly when the law would be passed, but "naturally" it should be before the state of emergency is lifted on 14 November. 

The draft law has ignited public debate, with critics arguing it infringes on basic freedoms and puts strict limitations on protests.

Prepared by the justice ministry, among the draft law's most controversial articles is Article 10 which gives the interior minister or senior police officials the authority to cancel, postpone or change the location of a protest, although protesters can seek emergency judicial intervention against such decisions.

In addition, Article 14 states that provincial governors have the power to designate "protest-free" areas of 50 to 100 metres around state and governmental premises, including presidential palaces, headquarters of legislative authorities and the cabinet.

Eissa did not make clear the amendments made to the anticipated law. 

Pro-Morsi protesters have been staging regular demonstrations nationwide since the army deposed him in July amid mass protests against his rule. Protests have often sparked tensions with local opponents or security forces.   

A state of emergency has been imposed in Egypt since 14 August when police forcibly dispersed two large pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo, killing hundreds and sparking a wave of violence nationwide.

After a two-month extension issued in September, the state of emergency is now expected to end on 14 November. The government has said it has no plans to extend it further. 

An overnight curfew, also in place since 14 August, would be lifted when the state of emergency ends, Eissa, also higher education minister, said at a press conference earlier on Saturday.

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