Egypt Pulse

Egypt amends law to tighten penalties against 'violence inciters'

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Article Summary
The Egyptian parliament approved amendments imposing stricter sanctions against anyone who promotes violence or extremist ideas, whether verbally or in writing, further clamping down on freedom of expression.

The Egyptian parliament approved March 25 new amendments to an anti-terrorism law, tightening penalties against those who promote extremist ideas and incite terrorist acts, whether verbally, in writing or by any other means. According to the new amendments, proposed by the parliamentary National Defense and Security Committee, the sanctions were increased from five to 10 years in prison.

According to the new law, calling for the use of violence by any means, whether on social media, on TV or anywhere else, is considered an indirect promotion of such acts and advocacy of extremist ideology.

Those who promote violence and extremism in places of worship, public places or state institutions, among members of the armed forces or police forces, or in places where these forces are located shall be sentenced to 15 years in prison, the new law stipulates.

Parliamentarians, politicians and human rights activists have expressed mixed reactions to the new amendments, with some saying it has the potential of eradicating terrorism in the country and others claiming it could stifle freedom of expression, especially on social media.

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“Promoting terrorist and extremist ideas has nothing to do with freedom of expression. Freedom is not a right when it violates the rights of others to be safe and secure,” Mohamed Abu Hamed, a member of parliament and member of the parliamentary Social Solidarity Committee, told Al-Monitor.

He said that the new amendments to the anti-terrorism law are consistent with the strategic direction of the state in combating terrorism, and come as part of other legislation and steps taken by the parliament to confront terrorism.

Abu Hamed noted that he would submit a bill to rid all state institutions of all elements having extremist ideas or belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group.

In September 2013, the Egyptian authorities banned the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered the confiscation of all its funds; in December of the same year, it labeled the Brotherhood as a terrorist group. Most members of the Muslim Brotherhood were put in prison and its leaders were handed several death sentences.

Abu Hamed added that a judicial committee would be formed according to the bill to decide on this matter, while the head of any state authority or institution would be entrusted with submitting the files or names of the employees whose affiliation should be investigated in order to determine the Brotherhood elements at various state bodies.

“The bill obliges various state institutions to cooperate with the judicial committee to verify the authenticity or nonvalidity of the affiliation of their suspect employees to a terrorist group,” Abu Hamed said, adding that a person will not be convicted of joining a terrorist group except with concrete evidence.

As part of the state’s ongoing fight against terrorism, Maj. Gen. Yahya al-Kadwani, a member of the parliamentary National Defense and Security Committee, announced Jan. 4 that the parliament is preparing a draft law that would oblige tenants of furnished apartments to inform the security authorities of their identities and obtain a rental license from the nearest police station.

Kadwani told local media that the draft law limits the use of furnished apartments in terrorist operations, drug trafficking and acts of immorality.

Negad el-Borei, a human rights lawyer and head of UG Law, said it should be guaranteed that the law is not targeted at a specific group of people, adding that the government has to scrutinize whether someone is inciting violence or is just expressing his point of view.

“If someone is just expressing his viewpoint on the current Egyptian government or leadership, that should not be classified as inciting violence or promoting terrorism,” Borei told Al-Monitor.

In recent months, Egypt’s parliament approved a number of laws to combat terrorism and extremism in all its forms. In March 2018, parliament approved amendments to tighten penalties against owners, importers and manufacturers of explosive devices. The law also stipulates life imprisonment if the crime was committed for the purpose of committing terrorist acts.

In April 2018, parliament passed a law regulating the procedures for managing funds of terrorist groups in order to limit the financing of terrorism, as well as the establishment of the Supreme Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism, which is carrying out a national strategy to counter terrorism and dry up sources of funding.

Abu Hamed said that Egypt has to step up cooperation with other countries in order to combat waves of extremism and terrorism, and exchange information related to terrorist elements and sources of financing to eliminate the phenomenon.

He added that legislation alone is not enough and stressed the need to combine all efforts to raise awareness of the seriousness of terrorism, including online efforts.

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Found in: Terrorism

Menna A. Farouk, a journalist and an editor at The Egyptian Gazette, writes about social, political and cultural issues, including press freedom, immigration and religious reforms among other topics. On Twitter: @MennaFarouk91

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