Po­lice use wa­ter can­non to en­force an­tiprotest­ing law

Right groups see new lim­its as harsh way to stop de­cent

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY SARAH DEEB

CAIRO | Po­lice fired wa­ter can­nons Tues­day to dis­perse dozens of ac­tivists protest­ing po­lice bru­tal­ity in Cairo, the se­cu­rity forces’ first im­ple­men­ta­tion of a con­tro­ver­sial new law for­bid­ding protests held without a per­mit from au­thor­i­ties.

The un­rest points to the grow­ing back­lash against the law, which im­poses heavy re­stric­tions on protests, among the sec­u­lar po­lit­i­cal fac­tions that ral­lied be­hind the mil­i­tary’s ouster of Is­lamist Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi.

Now, some in the loose coali­tion are grow­ing im­pa­tient with signs that the mil­i­tary-backed in­terim govern­ment is inch­ing to­ward au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism.

Many non-Is­lamist ac­tivists say the law aims to si­lence any dis­sent ahead of a ref­er­en­dum on an amended con­sti­tu­tion and other key elec­tions. Those ac­tivists op­pose pro­vi­sions in the re­vised con­sti­tu­tion en­trench­ing greater pow­ers for the mil­i­tary and the pres­i­dent, and cur­tail­ing rights to free tri­als and as­sem­bly.

The govern­ment says the law is needed to res­tore se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity and to rein in near-daily protests by Morsi sup­port­ers de­mand­ing his re­in­state­ment. The Is­lamist ral­lies of­ten have de­scended into clashes with se­cu­rity forces, leav­ing hun­dreds dead since Mr. Morsi’s ouster in July. The govern­ment’s mes­sage has a strong res­o­nance among a pub­lic weary of con­stant protests and un­rest.

But rights groups and ac­tivists say the law, is­sued Mon­day by the in­terim pres­i­dent, will sti­fle Is­lamists and non-Is­lamists alike. They say it is harsher than re­stric­tions on protests dur­ing the rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in 2011 in an up­ris­ing call­ing for greater demo­cratic free­doms.

“They don’t want any­one in the streets any more. Not us, not the Is­lamists,” said Rasha Azab, a po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist who took part in Tues­day’s rally that was bro­ken up by se­cu­rity forces.

In­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism of the law also has been grow­ing.

State Depart­ment spokes­woman Jen Psaki said Tues­day that the law raises con­cerns be­cause it does not meet in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and will not move Egypt’s tran­si­tion for­ward.

“We urge the in­terim govern­ment to re­spect in­di­vid­ual rights, and we urge that the new con­sti­tu­tion pro­tect such rights,” she said.

Skep­ti­cal of Mr. Morsi’s Mus­lim Brother­hood and the mil­i­tary, ac­tivists who spear­headed the 2011 up­ris­ing against Mr. Mubarak have been or­ga­niz­ing limited non-Is­lamist protests in re­cent weeks de­mand­ing jus­tice from po­lice of­fi­cials who killed hun­dreds of pro­test­ers in the past three years.

“My big­gest con­cern is that it would be more dif­fi­cult for the peo­ple to see the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing process,” said Ky­ouji Yanagisawa, a for­mer top de­fense of­fi­cial who was in charge of na­tional se­cu­rity in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice from 2004 to 2009. “That means we can’t check how or where the govern­ment made mis­takes, or help the govern­ment make a wise de­ci­sion.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.