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Egypt's political movements, parties campaign to revoke protest law

Ahram Online speaks with political movements and parties on why they want the protest law revoked and how they hope to make it happen

Passant Darwish , Wednesday 16 Apr 2014
Protesters jogging
Protesters jogging across Qasr El-Nile bridge in downtown Cairo, April 13, 2014 (Photo: courtesy of the Reuters-affiliated Aswat Masriya news website)

A number of Egyptian political movements and parties have started a nationwide campaign calling for the country's controversial protest law to be revoked and for all those detained under it to be released.

The protest law, issued last November, has sparked anger among human rights activists and political parties for containing articles that require protest organisers to notify authorities three days in advance of a protest's aims and demands while also imposing heavy jail terms and fines on those who break the law.

The Way of the Revolution Front, an anti-military and anti-Muslim Brotherhood coalition, along with April 6 and a number of youth movements and political parties have called for a series of events against the protest law, culminating in a protest in front of Ittihadiya presidential palace on 26 April.

The events included a marathon last week under the slogan "Revoke the Law, the Streets are Ours". Participating in the marathon was prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who was released in late March after more than 100 days in detention for breaking the protest law and is currently awaiting trial.

Other activities included a conference that gave families of those detained under the law a chance to speak about their situation, like how hard it is to pay the law's stipulated fines, which can reach up to LE100, 000.

This week, the campaign mobilised protesters on Wednesday to form human chains from the beginning of 6 October Bridge until the Cairo Opera House, on the other side of the Nile. The human chains were also present in other Egyptian governorates.

Jehan Shabaan, from the Way of Revolution Front, told Ahram Online that the call for "the events comes now because more people are being given final sentences under the law, after their appeals have been rejected."

Hundreds have participated in the protests so far, said Khaled El-Sayed, a founding member of the Way of Revolution Front.

El-Sayed said that the movement against the protest law has not been restricted to just street protests and activities. There has also been a conference where prominent lawyers like Ahmed Seif and Amr Imam argued why the law was unconstitutional.

However, no concrete plans have been made after the 26 April protest at the presidential palace.

"We will either decide on an open-ended protest, declare a strike or leave after the day is done and later convene to decide other escalations," Zizo Abdo, from April 6 Youth Movement, told Ahram Online. "It all depends on how the day goes," he added.

The events will also include women-only demonstrations on 22 April, organised by Nourhan Hefzy, the wife of activist Ahmed Douma, who is in prison for violating the protest law.

Douma, along with 6 April founding members Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, was given three years in prison and fined LE50,000 last December on charges that included organising a protest without a police permit.

The fate of the three activists seemed to be sealed earlier this month when an appeals court upheld their verdict. Although the verdict can still be appealed to the Court of Cassation, its proceedings are notorious for extending for indefinite amounts of time.

Spokesman for the Constitution Party Khaled Dawoud told Ahram Online that his party is not opposed to regulating protests but that the current protest law gives the interior ministry the power to either accept or reject peaceful protests. He also added that the law has harsh penalties that especially target youth.

"No country in the world would send their youth to prison for peaceful protests," he added.

Twelve members of the Constitution Party have been detained on charges of violating the protest law, two of which, according to Dawoud, have been given final sentences of two years in prison each.

Dawoud said the Constitution Party, and political parties in general, did not expect their members to be detained on charges of breaking a protest law, especially after participating in the 30 June protests that led to the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

Dawoud said that his party is hopeful that their demands will be heard, especially after interim President Adly Mansour called on the general prosecution to review similar cases against detained student protesters. 

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