Justice minister says draft protest bill protects peace

Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky said the Cabinet approved a draft law Wednesday that “protected the right to demonstrate” and is preparing to submit it to the Shura Council.

Activists and police have criticized the draft law, saying it restricts freedoms.

But during a press conference in Cairo, Mekky said the law still allows Egyptians to hold "peaceful" demonstrations and enshrines "the right to peaceful demonstration, the most powerful right granted to the Egyptian people.”

Instead of restricting freedoms, the draft legislation is designed to ensure the safety of demonstrators, he said. "The people overthrew the entire regime by demonstrating peacefully on 25 January [2011] and the success of that demonstration depended on its peacefulness and the acceptance of the people …” said Mekky.

The proposed legislation requires demonstration organizers to notify authorities of their plans three days in advance and formally file their list of demands and the entity or organization they are protesting.

Under the new law, security forces would not be able to cancel demonstrations. However, they can lodge a complaint with courts to change the demonstration's location or route in the case of a march. They can also file to postpone the event.

If no complaint is lodged, Mekky said police will be stationed at the protest to provide security.

“Demonstrations have recently become contaminated and shocking to the public. The bloodshed has become ugly. Therefore the bill restores the peacefulness of protests,” added Mekky.

The new bill also prohibits protesters from bringing weapons or covering their faces in any way during demonstrations.

Mekky said the prohibition was “not an infringement on [women's] freedoms because 'God told her to reveal her face during Hajj"'.

The minister stressed no peaceful protesters will be punished under the draft law. Instead, the bill targets “those who [go to] demonstrations to sabotage or break the rules by using weapons, harassing others or trespassing.”

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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