Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Protests against the protest law

Activists continue to campaign against the controversial protest law

The police arrested 24 protesters from among the hundreds who marched to Al-Ittihadiya Presidential Palace on 21 June to demonstrate against the controversial protest law and to call for the release of those who have been arrested for violating the law, reports Reem Leila.

Among the arrested protesters were seven women and three journalists, one from the newspaper Al-Shorouk, the second from the newspaper Al-Watan and the third from the Al-Badeel website, they were released soon after.

On their way to the presidential palace, the protestors clashed with unknown persons, who stoned them and threw glass bottles. The police intervened and dispersed the crowds with teargas.

The protestors, numbering some 500 people, included members of the Way of the Revolution Front, the 6 April Youth Movement, the Revolutionary Socialists, and the political parties Strong Egypt and Dostour. Rights lawyer and former presidential candidate in the 2012 elections, Khaled Ali, was also present on the march.

The protestors marched from the Al-Haram metro station in Heliopolis towards the Al-Ittihadiya Palace, but they were forced to change direction because of police blocks on Khalifa Al-Maamoun Street.

“The excessive presence of the security forces hindered us from reaching the palace, but we made it in the end,” said Mohamed Kamal, a member of the 6 April Movement. “When we reached the presidential palace, a security cordon prevented us from marching further,” he added.

Kamal said that the protestors had been demanding the cancellation of the protest law as well as the release of some 41,000 prisoners, among them Mahinour Al-Masri and Alaa Abdel-Fattah. 

The protest law, issued by the government of former prime minister Hazem Al-Beblawi last November, obliges protest organisers to inform the authorities of their intention to demonstrate three days before the protest takes place.

The law allows the interior minister to move or change the route of demonstrations or to disallow them. It allows the security forces to use water cannons, batons and teargas to disperse protesters, as well as measures including the use of rubber bullets and metal pellets.

Activists on the march said they were against both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military and wanted to see the release of people arrested under the protest law.

“We don’t recognise the protest law, and so we have not applied for a permit for this demonstration. We will not be applying for a permit for any future demonstration either,” Omayma Abdel-Fattah, a member of the Dostour Party, said.

The protestors chanted slogans such as “down with military rule,” “down with the protest law,” and “freedom for the detainees.” They held up banners on which were written the names of the detainees. There was also another banner on which was written “release Egypt”.

“I have gone down into the streets for the sake of all those who have been arrested on fabricated charges. The revolution did not die; it is continuing. We are here at the presidential palace to demonstrate against the protest law according to which hundreds of our fellow activists and revolutionaries have been arrested while all the thieves and corrupt people are being released,” Abdel-Fattah said.

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), an NGO, condemned the arrest of the journalists and protestors on the march. In a statement issued on 22 June, it criticised the authorities for using force against the protestors and using the protest law “as a way of suppressing opponents and packing the jails with protesters.”

The statement called on the authorities to free all those arrested on 21 June as well as all those arrested under the protest law. “People should be free to express their opinions, and there should not be a law against people’s right peacefully to express their opinions,” the statement read.

The Strong Egypt Party announced its solidarity with those arrested this week as well as with the detainees. It issued a statement condemning what it called the authorities’ “refusal to consider opposition opinions” and criticised the protest law, describing it as “unconstitutional.”

Former presidential candidate Khaled Ali said that a suit against the law had been filed with the Administrative Court, which had sent it to the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) for consideration.

“The problem is that the law will now be considered by the man who approved the law and passed it last November,” Ali said.

Former interim president Adli Mansour is the current head of the SCC, having handed over presidential powers to current elected president Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

While the protest ended quickly, it gained support from certain foreign countries. Saturday was named the “International Day of Solidarity with the Egyptian Detainees,” for example, in demonstrations that took place in front of Egyptian embassies in various foreign cities.

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