The Haram Prosecution ordered on Wednesday the release of four men arrested on Tuesday while putting up posters against the newly passed and highly controversial Protest Law.
The detainees were referred to prosecution on Tuesday. They faced the charges of protesting without a notice, inciting chaos, and “thuggery”. The prosecution released them on an EGP 5,000 bail each.
Karim Abdel Radi, researcher and lawyer at the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) who is following up with the case, said releasing the detainees on bail means that the legal case remains ongoing.
“The bail is a very large sum of money,” Abdel Radi said. “It’s considered punishment in itself.”
Abdel Radi described the detainees’ arrest as part of a campaign launched by the authorities against peaceful protest. “The authorities recognise peaceful protest as a weapon possessed by the people; they want to completely impound it,” he said.
The lawyer and researcher condemned the Protest Law, describing it as “oppressive”.
The Protest Law has garnered wide criticism from domestic as well as international human rights organisations since its issuance on 24 November. Several political movements have also criticised the law.
The legislation consists of strict restrictions on protests, marches and public meetings and requires a prior notice for protests at least three working days in advance; it also allows the Minister of Interior to move, change the route of or cancel assemblies. Articles in the Protest Law also allow security forces to use water cannons, batons and teargas to disperse protesters, as well as “escalatory measures” that would include the use of rubber bullets and metal pellets.
On Tuesday, ten Al-Azhar University students were detained by prosecution for 15 days also for protesting without a notice, among other charges. The students were arrested from a coffee shop in Nasr City on Monday while discussing the protests which broke out in Al-Azhar University and the possible steps they can take to see university chairman Osama Al-Abd resign, since they believe he fails to represent the university. The students were in possession of posters against the Protest Law at the time of their arrest.