Egypt’s top court upholds controversial protest law

Court says article banning all but sanctioned protests is unconstitutional – but critics say all other articles upheld, making ruling meaningless

Egypt’s top court has struck down part of a law that allowed authorities to ban all but officially sanctioned protests, a court official said Saturday, but upheld other areas of the law which critics say made the ruling meaningless.

The 2013 law, which has been used to jail activists for up to two years, required demonstrators to inform the interior ministry that they were planning a protest. The ministry could then refuse permission.

Tareq Shibel, an Egyptian barrister, said the Supreme constitutional court ruled that the article in question was unconstitutional. The court said in a statement that the constitution guaranteed freedom of association and the right to peaceful protest.

Saturday’s ruling does not, however, mean the law has been scrapped or changed in any significant way, in contrast to early media reports.

The court ruled in favour of three other articles being contested, including one that criminalises any gathering that threatens “public order”.

Rights lawyer Tarek Khater told the AP news agency he was “shocked” by the ruling and that striking down one article was meaningless as long as authorities could still arrest protesters on such “vague terms”.