World Bulletin/News Desk
Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Hossam Eissa played down mounting criticism of a new law endorsed by his government on staging protests and sit-ins.
"The law does not restrict freedoms of expression because protests can be held after prior notification only, and if the interior minister sees that a protest would disturb peace, he would prohibit it," Eissa, who also serves as the minister of higher education, told a press conference late Saturday.
"Protest organizers can go to the court of urgent matters if authorities refuse to allow the protest," he added.
Eissa said that law was endorsed by the country's state-run National Human Rights Council.
"It made minor changes to the law, which did not affect its meaning or content," he admitted.
According to the new law, organizers must notify the interior ministry about the time, motives, demands, venue and participants of a protest 24 hours in advance.
It forbids demonstrators from coming 50-100 meters near presidential palaces, cabinet and parliament headquarters and police stations, allowing policemen to use force to disperse non-abiding protesters.
Violators will be arrested and face prison sentences and a fine of up to 300,000 Egyptian pounds (around $40,000).
The law also grants authorities the right to prevent a protest or chance its planned venue on the grounds of possible threats to public interests or traffic disruption.
The legislation drew immediate rebuke from the country's human rights groups and political powers, even those who supported the army's July 3 ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi.
Critics insist that the law places unprecedented restrictions on the right to organize a protest or stage a sit-in and gives security agencies a free hand to restrain freedom of expressions.Last Mod: 20 Ekim 2013, 11:03