11/25/2013, 00.00
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For Catholic Church spokesman, "The law is against violence, does not restrict human rights"

The new law requires organisers to notify the police about the date and place of the event. For Fr Rafic Greiche, the country is just adapting its regulations to those already in place in Europe and other Western nations. The government is trying to curb violent protests organised by the Muslim Brotherhood in recent months. The law also bans political propaganda in mosques and places of worship.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - The Egyptian government adopted a controversial law designed to regulate protests. This comes after weeks of violent demonstrations led by students affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

As a protest, 19 human rights groups and Salafist political activists issued a joint statement against the new law calling it a smokescreen to give police additional powers and thwart any type of protest, including peaceful ones.

For Fr Greich Rafiq, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, the new legislation does not restrict the right to demonstrate, but tries to limit confrontations and violence.

"In Egypt," he told AsiaNews, "there are no regulations regarding protests and sit-ins, which often turn into violent clashes. The new law reflects legislation already in place in Western countries, where organisers are required to notify police about the date and place of the protest."

The new law also bans political propaganda in mosques and other places of worship, Fr Greiche noted.  "In most cases," he added, "the most violent protests are organised just after sermons and speeches by Islamist religious authorities in mosques."

Interim President Adly Mansour signed the bill into law yesterday. The latter requires protest organisers to notify the authorities three days before the event instead of seven as provided by previous regulations. Police can now disperse demonstrations deemed violent by using water cannons, tear gas and lead pellets.

The law imposes fines of up US$ 40,000 and seven-year prisons sentences for possession of illegal weapons. Organising illegal demonstrations can be punished with fines from US$ 1,350 to US$ 4,000.    

Gamal Eid, a lawyer and human rights activist who played a key role in the events of 2011 against Mubarak, slams the government's decision.

"The law's aim is to ban protests from the streets, a right which the Egyptians earned with their blood and great efforts."

For Eid, "the law is unconstitutional and violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

Meanwhile, Islamists continue to block the country's main universities, including al-Azhar.

Cars have been set on fire and Molotov cocktails have been thrown against a tourist bus in Cairo. This morning a group of unknown persons threw a grenade at a police station in Hadaeq Al- Qubbah, wounding three.

Sources, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews that should be used in demonstrations.

Small groups of young people, often between 14 and 17 years, roam universities campuses and streets, imposing their ideology by force, preventing the majority of students from entering and attending classes.

"This is typical a Muslim Brotherhood tactic," sources said. "After Mohammed Morsi's ouster, they pledged to keep the country in a state of permanent chaos."

Last Wednesday, police arrested 38 minors in Alexandria and Cairo responsible for violence the day before, anniversary of the massacre of Mohammed Mahmoud Street in 2011.

According to the sources, these young people are paid by violent Islamists. They infiltrate rallies armed with sticks, Molotov cocktails and hand-made guns with orders to provoke violence in peaceful protests.


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As Muslim Brotherhood sit-in protests cleared, casualty figure uncertain
After church attacks, we live in fear, says Christian woman
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Cairo, car bomb outside police headquarters. Three dead and 35 injured
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