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Egypt: Arrests shake charter panel

The arrest of several protesters angered members the panel drafting Egypt’s constitution

Published: Updated:

The panel drafting Egypt’s new constitution suspended its work on Tuesday after several demonstrators, including a prominent activist, were arrested outside the parliament.

Hoda el-Sadda, a senior member of the panel, told AFP she and nine others “suspended work after the arrest of protesters.”

The protesters were transferred to the prosecution’s office for investigation after they violated a recently issued controversial law to ban unauthorized protests.

They were protesting against an article in the revised basic law that allows the military to try civilians in certain cases, a security official said.

Among those arrested were Mona Seif, founder of a campaign against military trials of civilians, and Ahmad Harara, a dentist who lost his eyes to birdshot during protests against Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and against the military council that ruled Egypt immediately after Mubarak’s fall.

Another panel member, Khaled Youssef, also criticized authorities for arresting the protesters as he suspended his work on the committee.

“What is happening is threatening the future of our country because this committee of 50 faces risk of exploding. This committee is the cornerstone of the road map,” Youssef said on state television, referring to the transitional plan outlined by Egypt’s interim rulers after they came to power following the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi.

The road map envisages that a new constitution, a new parliament and a new president should be in place by the summer of 2014.

Activists, meanwhile, vented their anger at Tuesday’s protest crackdown.

“This won’t stop the protest,” said Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent activist and brother of Seif.

“They used water cannon and then started beating and arresting people,” he told AFP.

“The law must be repealed,” said Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 movement that spearheaded the 2011 revolt that toppled Mubarak.

“The interior ministry does not want any protests,” he said, adding that “even under Mubarak we could hold protests.”

Police also used water cannon to disperse another protest in Cairo where demonstrators were demanding the prosecution of those responsible for the deaths of demonstrators in November 2011 when opponents of the then military rulers clashed with police in the capital.

Amnesty International said the new protest law was a “serious setback that poses a grave threat to freedom of assembly and gives security forces a free rein to use excessive force, including lethal, against demonstrators.”

The Islamist Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, also condemned the law.

It said that “instead of stopping the security forces’ repressive and murderous practices, (the law) entrenches brutality and abuse”.

Egypt’s military-installed authorities are engaged in a crackdown since August 14 on Islamist supporters of President Mursi.
He was overthrown on July 3 after mass street protests against his turbulent single year of rule.

Since then, more than 1,000 pro-Mursi protesters have been killed and thousands more arrested.

(With AFP)