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Cabinet amends laws creating harsher punishments for terrorism

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Amendments to the Penal Code and Criminal Procedures Law come in the wake of the Cairo University blasts

 Egyptians inspect the damage after twin bombs struck police posts near Cairo University in the centre of Egypt’s capital on April 2, 2014, which was followed by a third blast as police and journalists gathered at the scene. (AFP PHOTOS / MAHMOUD KHALED)

Egyptians inspect the damage after twin bombs struck police posts near Cairo University in the centre of Egypt’s capital on April 2, 2014, which was followed by a third blast as police and journalists gathered at the scene.
(AFP PHOTOS / MAHMOUD KHALED)

Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb’s cabinet amended on Thursday articles of the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedures Law in a manner which guarantees harsher punishments for crimes relating to terrorism.

The meeting closely followed three blasts outside Cairo University’s main gate in Giza on Wednesday. The blasts left Tarek El-Mergawy, Director of Western Giza Investigation, killed and nine other policemen injured, including seven officers.

The cabinet amended several articles of the Penal Code, including Article 86, under which the Muslim Brotherhood is treated as a terrorist organisation. The amended article states that joining a “terrorist organisation” knowingly is a crime punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison. The same punishment applies to those who “promote terrorism” through speech, text, flyers or recordings.

The cabinet added to Penal Code Article 63. The draft article exempts the official executing an arrest from accountability should he use force “in carrying out his duty, in protecting himself, others, or their property from imminent danger,” if his use of force is “necessary and proportionate to the danger faced.”

Article 133 was amended in a manner which maximises the punishment for insulting (through signs or speech) or threatening any public official. Such crime is now punishable by a maximum of two years in prison, instead of six months in prison, or an EGP 10,000 fine, instead of an EGP 200 fine.

Amendments were sent to the presidency for ratification.

Articles concerning terrorism in both laws were recently amended in September 2013. The bills were drafted by former Justice Minister Adel Abdel Hameed and approved by interim President Adly Mansour. The amendments garnered wide criticism as they were seen to provide the government with wide jurisdiction in facing its opponents.

The cabinet also decided to increase the number of judicial districts concerned with cases of terrorism and heightened security in the vicinity of universities.

In a statement released on Thursday, the cabinet stated that terrorist operations aim at foiling the “roadmap” announced by former Defence Minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi after former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster on 3 July.

“The great people of Egypt stand behind our heroes from the armed forces and the police to deter terrorism,” the statement read.

On Wednesday, Mehleb met with the cabinet’s security committee, including: ministers of Defence, Interior and Justice, as well as representatives from the General Intelligence Service, the Military Intelligence and National Security.

The committee concluded that, despite the latest bombings, the security situation “continues to improve in general.”

The presidency also condemned the bombings in a statement released on Wednesday. It called on the international community to “take clear stances against terrorism … through comprehensive international cooperation.”

Egypt has been adopting the rhetoric of waging a “war on terrorism” since Morsi’s military backed ouster. Morsi’s ouster has been closely followed by a militant insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, targeting security officials. Such attacks have prompted a heavy military presence within the peninsula.

On 25 December, former Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi’s cabinet announced listing Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.

The decision closely followed an explosion that occurred in the Al-Daqahleya Security Directorate, resulting in the death of 16 people and injury of more than 100.

On 24 January, four bombs went off at four separate places in Greater Cairo, including the Cairo Security Directorate in Bab Al-Khalq neighbourhood. The four attacks left six people killed.

Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for all the aforementioned attacks.


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