Draft Islamist-backed bill to regulate protests sparks criticisms

The Islamist-dominated Shura Council was rattled on Monday by scathing criticism from politicians and activists over a proposed bill to regulate the right of citizens to protest.

Leaks of the draft were published by media outlets on Saturday.

Ihab al-Kharrat, chairman of the human rights committee, said that Ez Eddin Al-Koumy, the committee's undersecretary and a member at the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, had proposed the amendments to the law that was originally introduced by the interior ministry and asked that the committee discuss them. Al-Kharrat said he has yet to review the documents.

"The committee has not presented any bills, but members' proposals will be discussed. I will submit a bill on peaceful protesting which has been prepared by civil society groups," al-Kharrat said in press statements on Monday, noting that all bills would be opened for debate before approval.

The moderate Islamist Wasat Party rejected the bill in a memo to council speaker Ahmed Fahmy.

"Based on what has been on the media, we refuse linking the right to protest to thuggery," the memo said, stressing that both are different words, and that issues related to thuggery are addressed sufficiently in the Penal Code.

“In the current critical period, we better focus on citizens’ daily concerns, most notably payment thresholds, pensions, unemployment, and health insurance," the memo read.

Informed council sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the law had been leaked to test the public reaction, and added that representatives have started to backtrack to avoid any crises at present after the criticisms the bill has stirred.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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