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Egypt imposes strict anti-terror law

| Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, 7:51 p.m.

CAIRO — In a significant leap toward harsher authoritarian rule, Egypt has enacted a draconian anti-terrorism law that sets a broad definition for who and what could get a harsh set of punishments, including journalists who don't toe the government line.

The law adds provisions to protect security forces from prosecution, establishes stiffer prison sentences for terror-related offences, as well as heavy fines for those who publish “false news” and a special judicial circuit for terrorism cases.

Authorities claim the measures will halt attacks by Islamic terrorists and stop the spread of their ideology, but the restrictions have prompted concern from lawyers, rights groups, the opposition and Egyptian politicians and senior judges.

The 54-article bill, signed into law late Sunday by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, establishes an extremely broad definition of terrorism, describing it in one article as any act that disturbs public order with force. Charges, such as organizing a terrorist group, carry the death penalty.

Egyptians lived under so-called “emergency laws” for decades that gave police extensive powers, encouraging a culture of brutality among security forces, something that partially inspired the 2011 uprising against longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Constitutional law expert Nour Farahat, who helped set up guidelines for the first post-Mubarak constitutional amendments, said the government ignored advice concerning the new law's constitutional flaws.

“This is because the Interior Ministry wants that, and the Interior Ministry is now ruling Egypt,” he wrote.

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