Egypt’s Moussa defends draft charter

Panel chief says draft constitution guarantees democracy but offers cautious criticism of recent law restricting street protests

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Amr Moussa, the chairman of the 50-member panel that drafted Egypt’s constitution, has defended the document on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Moussa said the draft constitution guarantees democracy and freedoms, but he offered cautious criticism of a recent law restricting street protests.

A new law that places restrictions on street protests has generated widespread criticism. Some of the most prominent leaders of the 2011 uprising against Mubarak are now facing trial for breaking the law or alleged assaults on police, reported the Associated Press.

“The law should have been further considered before being adopted,” he said. “But we also have to agree that this is not the way to express views,” Moussa said, in reference to the contested new law.

However, Moussa was optimistic about the country’s future.

“This is a constitution that answers to the requirements of the 21st century,” he said. “The constitution is very clear on democracy and freedoms.”

A copy of the draft charter, obtained by the Associated Press from Moussa’s office, states that men and women have equal rights and that the state must ensure “appropriate” representation of women in public jobs and the judiciary. It also criminalizes torture, discrimination and inciting hatred.

The draft also asks the next parliament to adopt a law that would lift longtime restrictions on the construction and restoration of churches, thus allowing Egypt’s Christians - about 10 percent of the country’s estimated 90 million people - to build and restore their places of worship.

Despite Moussa’s insistence that the document provides for freedom and equality, many activists say the military-backed government has shown itself to be intolerant of public dissent. They point to the current suppression of Muslim Brotherhood loyalists.

Critics of the draft constitution contend that is has given the military special status by allowing it to bring civilians before military tribunals.

But Moussa defended the powers given to the military, saying Egyptians must stand behind the military.

“The armed forces are widely respected and are being attacked. They lose soldiers and officers every day,” Moussa said. “There is a consensus that we are going through very dangerous circumstances. The army is under attack and we all have to stand firm behind it.”

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