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Egypt: Interim president signs controversial protest law - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this Thursday, July 18, 2013, photo released Friday, July 19, by the Egyptian Presidency, Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour makes his first address to the nation since taking his post after the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt.  (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

In this file photo, released July 19 by the Egyptian Presidency, Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour makes his first address to the nation since taking his post after the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian interim president Adly Mansour signed into law on Sunday controversial protest legislation that human rights groups claim will sharply curb citizens’ ability to assemble and protest peacefully.

The bill requires protesters to receive permission in advance of any protest or rally, while also allowing security forces to “unconditionally” use rubber bullets against protesters.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch dismissed the draft of the protest law as “effectively giving the police carte blanche to ban protest in Egypt.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “This draft law would effectively mandate the police to ban all protests outright and to use force to disperse ongoing protests.”

The draft protest law comes amid a wider clampdown on Muslim Brotherhood activity, with Egyptian Interior Minister Gen. Mohamed Ibrahim accusing the group of sponsoring attacks on police and security forces following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, Ibrahim said: “The Muslim Brotherhood, with the support and funding from the international Muslim Brotherhood organization, has mobilized extremist terrorist elements, including ones from the Al-Qaeda organization and the Gaza Strip, to carry out a series of terrorist attacks following the June 30 revolution.”

In previous comments, Ibrahim criticized the former Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, accusing it of “living in harmony” with terrorism groups.

“When I was appointed to the post, I started to look into the security department because the situation had reached a very poor standard,” he said.

The Interior Minister also announced that a 33-member “terrorist cell” was responsible for the assassination of Mohamed Mabrouk, a senior officer at the National Security apparatus who had been in charge of investigating espionage charges against the deposed president. Mabrouk was shot dead near his home earlier this week.

Ibrahim also announced that the interior ministry had captured those responsible for the killing of 25 army conscripts in the Sinai Peninsula on August 20.

Police and army forces carried out search operations in areas south of Al-Arish, Rafah and Sheikh Zuwaid in northern Sinai. A security source in northern Sinai informed Asharq Al-Awsat: “Seven people suspected of affiliation to Takfirist groups in Sinai were apprehended and are currently being interrogated. Seven terrorists’ houses were destroyed and a number of unregistered cars and motorcycles were seized.”

Meanwhile, security forces in northern Sinai announced the arrests of another 11 armed men, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Speaking on Saturday, the Interior Minister’s comments seemed to pre-empt the announcement of the protest law on Sunday. Ibrahim said: “Any demonstration which ceases to be peaceful will he dealt with decisively and with force regardless of the losses on either side.”

He added: “The demonstrations on the streets are paid demonstrations, and the Brotherhood have turned Friday into a day of misery for Egyptians.”