Police tried to 'protect' protesters Tuesday: Egypt PM

Ahram Online, Wednesday 27 Nov 2013

Interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi says Egypt's police was trying to alert protesters on Tuesday to issue notification whilst protecting them

Egypt's Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi (Photo: Reuters)

Interim PM Hazem El-Beblawi said Wednesday that Egypt's police had attempted to alert protesters to issue a notice for demonstrations whilst protecting them on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister expressed his regret at witnessing "protests to destroy the democratic path."

Tuesday protests were held in defiance of the newly implemented protest law, which was issued by Interim President Adly Mansour on Sunday.

Protesters did not apply for permission, and therefore were breaking the new law, which demands that any gathering of over ten people be announced and approved three days in advance.

Police dispersed hundreds of protesters outside the Shura Council using teargas and water cannons. Twenty-four activists are currently being detained for four days pending investigations, while female protesters, initially detained, were released alone in the desert.

The PM, speaking at a press conference at Cairo's Police Academy, defended the law, stating that it was made to protect and secure citizens' rights to freedom of expression.

The law underwent a civil consultation process; passing through the Egyptian National Council of Human Rights and then being subject to discussions in the Cabinet, which considered laws similar to the French and Italian versions, Beblawi added.

The PM said there's space for critique but not for defying the authorities. "There's no perfect law, but there are channels for talks and adjustments," he elaborated.

"The law provides safety to protesters, it's not a law of punishment," he continued, adding that, although freedom of expression is a human right, those who endanger the state should be punished.

The protest law has received criticism domestically and internationally.

Along with local calls for further protests defying the law, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights criticised it as "seriously flawed," urging the government to amend it.

Following the dispersal of Tuesday's protests, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said the newly enacted law restricts freedoms.

"New law regulating peaceful protests in #Egypt simply doesn't meet intl standards," she tweeted on Tuesday. "Gov't must protect freedoms, and this law restricts them."

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