CAIRO: An Egyptian court adjourned Tuesday a lawsuit against the 2013 Protest Law to June 17, after lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali pleaded that the law “contradicts” the constitution.
Ali argued that while the 2014 Constitution stipulates that authorities should be notified of protests in advance, the protest law sets the authorities’ approval as a prerequisite. He said that this “contradiction” poses the question whether the law is made to “regulate” protests or “restrict” them.
In one incident, the authorities rejected a notification for a protest only 24 hours before it took place, even though the protest organizer had requested a permit a week earlier, Ali said.
“A protest requires mobilization ahead of it, if it is rejected only one day ahead, it compels people to protest illegally and the police arrest them,” Ali added.
Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on the Protest Law
Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, probable president-elect of Egypt, said in a television interview during his campaign that the law was passed as a legal mechanism to end “the state of anarchy that Egypt is going through.”
“Protesting is a right but there are conditions that should be taken into consideration,” Sisi said
He said the aim of the Protest Law is to regulate demonstrations, not to ban them, and he questioned if someone submitted a request to demonstrate that the request would be turned down.
Protest law leads to thousands of detentions
Thousands have been detained since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, and after the Protest Law was adopted in November 2013, the crackdown has also reached non-Islamist opposition figures. Those arrested under the law may receive a prison sentence of two to five years and a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 EGP ($6992.70- $13,985.40).
The most common charge against detainees is protesting without a permit and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated a terrorist organization by Egypt in December, Karim Abdel Rady, a researcher at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information told The Cairo Post in March.
“I am not against laws regulating protests, but the new Protest Law gags dissidents and is used as an alternative to the Emergency Law, and security forces use it to justify excessive use of force,” Mokhtar Mounir, the head of the Journalists Against Torture Monitor’s legal unit and member of the Front to Defend Egypt’s Protesters told The Cairo Post.
“If it was not for the protest law, many protesters would be detained for nothing,” Mounir added.
Many figures and movements, including the April 6 Youth Movement, have held protests against the law, considering it a means to restrict freedom of expression.
April 6 Youth Movement founder Ahmed Maher, member Mohamed Adel and activist Ahmed Douma were sentenced to three years in jail and a 50,000 EGP fine for charges including organizing illegal protests last December.
On May 20, a court in Alexandria upheld a two-year jail sentence against activist Mahinour el-Masry and fined her 50,000 EGP for protesting in December in solidarity with Khaled Said, whose brutal death in 2010 while in state custody helped spark the 2011 January 25 Revolution. Masry was convicted of violating the protest law.
Both Rady and Mounir anticipate that the “crackdown on freedoms will increase after the presidential elections,” with the “current clampdown on human rights” being an indicator.
“The next parliament, however, will partake in shaping the upcoming stage. It is uncertain how it will look like with Nour Party and former members of the National Democratic Party intending to run,” Rady said.