Demonstrators defy Egypt protest law

Ahram Online, Tuesday 26 Nov 2013

Separate protests planned for Cairo on Tuesday in defiance of new protest law which opponents label restrictive

Riot police take positions
File photo: Riot police take positions (Photo: Reuters)

A number of political movements have called for protests in Cairo on Tuesday in defiance of a new protest law dubbed oppressive by opponents.

The law was issued on Sunday by interim President Adly Mansour, sparking anger from political parties and human rights groups.

Controversial articles include requiring protest organisers to notify authorities three days in advance of a protest's aims and demands, and imposing heavy jail terms and fines on individuals who break the law.

In a test of the law's effectiveness, several movements have called for protests, either to defy the law itself or to present their demands, without notifying the interior ministry as the law requires.

The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, an Islamist umbrella group led by the Muslim Brotherhood, called for demonstrations. 

In a statement it described the law as "born dead." 

Brotherhood protesters have held near-daily protests since Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was ousted in July. They have often ended in bloody clashes with opponents or security forces. Their numbers have fallen sharply, however, amid a widespread crackdown on Islamists. Protests have become mainly centered on university campuses.

Since the beginning of the academic year in September, students have held frequent and sometimes violent demonstrations, which have continued since the law was passed on Sunday. The government says violent protests mean the law change is necessary.

Revolutionary youth supporting Gaber 'Jika' Salah, who was killed in the Mohammed Mahmoud clashes with security forces in 2012, also called for protests on Tuesday.

Demonstrators will gather in Talaat Harb Street near Tahrir Square "to mark the first anniversary of [Jika's] death and to declare our rejection of the protest law," Jika's official Facebook page said.

Security has been beefed up in anticipation of the protests.

The interior ministry has frequently declared its readiness to deal with violent protests. But it is unclear how it will enforce the new law.

"[We] will not allow any practices that hinder the interests of citizens or damage stability and development," the interior ministry said in a statement on Tuesday directed at Brotherhood protesters. 

Rebel (Tamarod), the youth group that spearheaded mass protests against Mohamed Morsi on 30 June, has also denounced the law.

It said the law was not amended by the National Council for Human Rights as it had demanded, Aswat Masriya reported.

Two articles should be changed, Rebel said: the right to attend private meetings, and the interior ministry's right to forbid protests from taking place.

Protesting is a right we gained in the January 25 revolt and on 30 June. We are not against regulating the right to protest but freedom of expression must be respected, Hassan Shahin, the group's spokesman, said on its official Facebook page, Aswat Masriya reported.

In the first reaction to the law, April 6 Youth Movement members on Monday submitted a written notification to a police station of their intention to protest. It was intended to mock the new law. In their submission they included chants, the number of protesters and the route of the march, as required by the law.

Meanwhile, a final vote on the amended constitution is expected within days. Lack of agreement on several articles has delayed the vote more than once. Among the contentious articles is the right of the military courts to try civilians.

The 'No to Military Trials for Civilians' group will protest against the article on Tuesday outside the Shura Council where the constitution panel meets.



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