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Arrests for violations of protest law continue

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Human Rights Watch condemns police action at Tuesday Shura Council protest

Five students demonstrating in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi were arrested on Thursday, according to state-owned MENA. The students were arrested in Nasr City for organising a march without obtaining the required permits from the Ministry of Interior, as mandated by the new measures implemented in the new controversial protest law.

The arrests come two days after a protest without proper permits at the Shura Council against military trials for civilians was forcefully dispersed by police forces, resulting in dozens of arrests.

Prosecution on Thursday was scheduled to make a decision concerning the renewal of detention for 24 of the protesters who were arrested on Thursday.

Former general coordinator of the 6 April Youth Movement Ahmed Maher and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who were not detained on Tuesday, were subject to arrest warrants in the aftermath. According to lawyers from the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), detainees on Tuesday had been questioned regarding Maher and Abdel Fattah’s role in the organising of Tuesday’s protest.

Both activists announced in separate statements that they would turn themselves in to prosecution on Saturday.

The 6 April Youth Movement said that despite fears that repressive tactics from the era of Hosni Mubarak were returning, Maher would turn himself in “to show the public that he is not afraid of accountability as long as he is in the right.”

In its statement 6 April said it “would like to remind the current authority that it came to power through demonstrations” and was now guilty of trying to stifle subsequent protests through indiscriminate arrests and politicised court rulings.

Abdel Fattah also released a statement on Facebook saying he did not recognise the new protest law and that the current government lost legitimacy starting with bloodshed at the Republican Guards Club near Rabaa Al-Adaweya.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a Thursday press release, said that police were treating the new protest law as a “carte blanche to attack protesters” and said its observers on the scene saw no signs of protester violence prior to security forces’ use of water cannons, teargas, and batons.

Following the arrest of at least 74 protesters, security forces dropped 14 female demonstrators off on the side of a desert highway over 30 kilometres south of the protest site, according to HRW, but not before they were beaten before being taken out of New Cairo police station.

“The violent dispersal and arrests on November 26 serve as a stark reminder of the danger of giving security forces a blank check to regulate public assembly,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “The government should immediately release those detained solely for exercising their right to demonstrate and rescind the new protest law.”

A third day of protesting in Talaat Harb Square was scheduled for Thursday afternoon against the new protest law and in support of detained demonstrators.


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