Egypt's law banning protests is 'cover' for repression, say rights groups
Egypt's interim president has banned public gatherings of more than 10 people without prior government approval, imposing hefty fines and prison terms for violators in a bid to stifle the near-constant protests roiling the country.
The new law is more restrictive than regulations used under the rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, overthrown in Egypt's 2011 uprising that marked the start of unrest in the country. Rights groups and activists immediately denounced it, saying it aims to stifle opposition, allow repressive police practices and keep security officials largely unaccountable for possible abuses.
"The law is giving a cover to justify repression by all means," said Bahy Eddin Hassan, head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
The military-backed government first floated the law in October. Interim President Adly Mansour approved a slightly amended version Sunday, which removed a proposed ban on sit-ins and a draft portion criminalising "insulting the state." The law requires three days prior notice for protests. It grants security agencies the right to bar any protests or public gatherings, including election-related meetings of political parties, if they deem it a threat to public safety or order. Protesters can appeal the decision, but the law doesn't force judges to rule ahead of scheduled protests.
The new law also bars gatherings in places of worship, a regular meeting place for all protests in Egypt and one heavily used by Islamist groups. The law also says the police have the right - following warnings - to use force gradually, including the use of water cannons, tear gas and clubs.
Penalties range from seven years in prison for using violence in a protest to fines of US$1,500 for protesting without a permit .