Egypt cabinet allows police to enter universities without permission

Ahram Online, Thursday 21 Nov 2013

Cabinet announces number of security-related decisions on Thursday amidst ongoing unrest in Egypt universities

Egypt's Cabinet in a meeting. (photo: Ahram)

Egypt's cabinet ruled on Thursday that police may enter university campuses without prior permission if facilities or students are under threat.

The decision – which reverses previous regulations requiring that police receive permission from the university president or judicial authorities before entering campuses – comes amidst a wave of violent clashes in universities across the country.

In a Thursday press conference, cabinet spokesman Hany Salah El-Din also announced that the cabinet's protest law would soon be approved.

He added that the cabinet has demanded the formation of special prosecution units tasked specifically with investigating "terrorism."

Egypt has witnessed a volatile security situation since the July ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, with a surge in attacks on security personnel, namely in northern Sinai. Suspected Islamist militants are largely blamed for the attacks.

Morsi supporters have held near-daily protests since the president's ouster. However, their numbers have fallen sharply, and protests are increasingly restricted to university campuses. Demonstrations often turn violent as protesters clash with security or Morsi opponents.

Al-Azhar University, Egypt's leading authority of Sunni Islam, has seen some of the most violent protests over the past weeks.

A protest at Al-Azhar on Wednesday left one student dead and 16 others arrested, following clashes between students and the police.

Last week, a court sentenced 12 pro-Morsi students to 17 years in prison for attacking the Al-Azhar headquarters in October.

"There is no immunity for anyone who breaks the law," Salah El-Din stated.

The soon-to-be-approved cabinet protest law was submitted to Interim President Adly Mansour on 12 November for review.

The bill stirred controversy when it was first introduced, as local and international rights groups argued that it undermines basic freedoms. The bill gives the interior minister or senior police officials the right to cancel, postpone or change the location of any demonstration.

The law also entitles governors to designate "protest-free" areas near state buildings, including presidential palaces.

The cabinet amended the bill after receiving recommendation from the country's state council that it review several articles.

The interim president is expected to issue the final version of the law, although a deadline has not been set. The state council has argued that the ban on sit-ins should be lifted, and that the fine for violators should be reduced, according to the Associated Press.

El-Din said that the cabinet's decisions aim to confront terrorism, provide safety and security for citizens, and restore stability to Egypt's streets.

"The law should be enforced in cases of arson, sabotage and road blocking, which cannot be called a 'peaceful' protest," El-Din asserted.

The government has also decided to review jail pardons issued by Morsi during his year in power, as well as cases of citizenships granted to non-Egyptians.

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