CAIRO: After a two-day strike by low-ranking police forces ended with promises to study their economic demands, many rights activists are asking whether Egypt’s anti-protest laws would apply to the striking officers?
“Will Sharqiah police personnel be tried over charges of gathering?” read a Facebook post by Human Rights Lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer Sunday.
Baqer told The Cairo Post that the striking forces reportedly blocked roads, “and it is considered disrupting vital utility, which means they should fall under the provisions of the assembly law and not the 2013 Protest Law.”
Hundreds of Sharqiah police personnel, joined by others from governorates, had entered a half-strike demanding improved working conditions. Local media reported that the demonstrators banned police officials from entering the security directorate; injuries among striking personnel were reported following clashes with central security forces trying to forcefully disperse the gathering.
The recently ratified terrorism law defines terrorist acts as “…. endangering buildings, public and private assets…and preventing and disrupting public and governmental authorities from practicing their work.”
A source at the Sharqiah security directorate, however, denied any violence took place from either sides, and that the gathering was self-dispersed by the striking forces themselves. The source spoke to The Cairo Post Monday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Quoting media reports that the striking forces had stormed police installation, Baqer questioned “will they be tried over the [new] Terrorism law…and be referred to military trials over attacking a vital utility?”
A 2014 decree was issued by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to consider any public utility as military one, and accordingly attackers are referred to military tribunals. “The universities are considered as public utilities, that’s why many students are being tried militarily,” Baqer said.
“The striking police forces were left for two days inside a vital utility, in addition to authorities trying to negotiate with them to halt the protest,” said rights lawyer Waleed Farouq. “This proves that there is not justice in applying laws in this country and that there are people who are above the law,” Farouq added in statements to The Cairo Post.
“A decision to release all people imprisoned over violating the protest law should be issued at the meantime,” he continued.
Farouq, however, found the Sharqiah forces’ strike fall under the 2013 Protest Law.
“This is a defect,” Farouq said, adding that police forces “are now protesting after they were dispersing demonstrations by activists since the January 25 Revolution; this is ironic.” He added “besides, officers, unlike civilians, are not allowed to protest; they are violating their laws.”
Since its adoption in 2013, the Protest law has been imposed on dozens of activists demanding restoration of their constitutional freedoms and rights, which they believe have been harassed under the widely condemned law.
Many of them are either serving or waiting for jail sentences for not having received police permits prior to demonstrations.