The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) accused Egyptian authorities of tailoring legislations to enforce arbitrary restrictions on all those who criticise or oppose the regime.
In a statement released on Sunday, ANHRI criticised two bills drafted by Minister of Justice Adel Abdel Hameed; one amending the article on terrorism in the Penal Code and the other amending the article on preventive detention in the Criminal Procedure Law.
The organisation accused the current interim government of taking advantage of the absence of elected legislative bodies. It stated the legislative amendments drafted by the minister gives the government wide jurisdiction to face its opponents, warning that this might threaten the legitimacy of the outcomes of the current transitional period.
The first bill added a clause to article 86 of the Penal Code expanding the concept of terrorism, in a manner which allows for the article’s application on all government opponents and critics, ANHRI said.
The amended article states that a terrorist is anyone who collected, received, transferred or supplied funds, weapons, explosive devices, tools or information that was used in terrorism , using any means whether directly or indirectly.
The amendments also stated that anyone who illegally establishes, organises or manages an organisation, an authority, a group or a gang with the purpose of calling for stalling the constitution or the laws or preventing any state institutions from carrying out their duties is to be punished by a three to 15-year prison sentence. The prison sentence also applies to those who attack citizens’ freedoms, harm national unity or societal peace, or fund terrorism.
The amended article failed to clearly define terrorism, ANHRI said. It accused it of using wide terms which allow authorities to crackdown on all public service activities. The organisation said this article might allow cracking down on those who call for constitutional or legal amendments, or those who protest near state institutions.
“This is an unprecedented reversal of the gains of the 25 January revolution,” the statement read. “It shows the state’s intention to silence people and use terrorism as justification for the return of a police state.”
The second bill cancelled the restrictions on preventive detention stated in article 143 of the Criminal Procedures Law. The amendments removed the maximum period of preventively detaining suspects who have only received a first degree verdict of life in prison or execution.
In an explanatory memorandum attached with the bill which was submitted to Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, Abdel Hameed stated that the amendment came in light of the rising frequency of violent crimes and the threat they pose to society, reported state-run Al-Ahram. Abdel Hameed added that the amendment ensures that justice is served and that suspects whose charges were proven are punished.
ANHRI nevertheless stated the amendment allows for punishing suspects without proving their incrimination. It said this goes against the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.
“Abdel Hameed’s practices bring back the times of tailoring laws allowing the state and its security apparatuses to exclude its opponents and violate their rights …” ANHRI said.
It called on interim President Adly Mansour not to issue the bills and avoid taking the same “exceptional procedures” which failed both during the reign of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and during former President Mohamed Morsi’s time in power.