CAIRO: Amr Moussa, the former head of the 50-member committee, urged Thursday an early response to widespread calls for reconsidering the 2013 protest law, after he received an open letter urging the release of 24 activists who were arrested June 21 for having illegally protested.
Moussa noted that the country is at a “critical juncture” that is affecting its interests, stability and production, hence the “vital necessity of the completion of the roadmap” to establish the institutions set in the constitution.
“[T]he implementation of the law is fundamental and its violation is unacceptable, and citizens’ rights must be respected and protected along with the rights of the nation,” Moussa said.
“All of this does not justify injustice incurred by any citizen. Much like a large number of citizens, I have been moved by what was stated in the letter about Yara, Sanaa, Sahar, Nahed, Fekreya, Hanan and Samar. I will do my best to clarify this issue and follow up with the defendants’ defense on shortening the duration of the adjournment of the case and their release,” Moussa added.
The 24 activists were arrested near Ithadeya presidential palace while demonstrating against the protest law, which requires official permission for any public political gathering. The next court date of Sept. 13 means they will face detention for more than 80 days pending trial.
Moussa highlighted the proposal drafted by the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) in December to make 15 amendments to the protest law.
State-funded NCHR proposes that the government abolishes the prison penalties in this law, to be replaced with fines.
If the amendments are not adopted, the protest law would be “unconstitutional,” NCHR said. April 6 Youth Movement and several other political movements and human rights organizations also described the law as unconstitutional and have organized several protests against it.
Coupled with the possibility of being detained for up to two years pending trial, the protest law is criticized of being used as an alternative to the emergency law, which was abolished in 2011.
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 ($6,992.70- $13,985.40.)
In June, the Administrative Court permitted former presidential candidate Khaled Ali to appeal articles 8 and 10 of the protest law before the Supreme Constitutional Court. The two articles stipulate that the Ministry of Interior be notified of the demonstration seven days in advance and is entitled to reject the protest.