Egypt to reconsider parts of controversial anti-terror draft law

Egypt to reconsider parts of controversial anti-terror draft law

CAIRO – Agence France-Presse
Egypt to reconsider parts of controversial anti-terror draft law

AP photo

An Egyptian judiciary council has asked the government to reconsider sections of a controversial anti-terrorism draft law before its approval by the president, officials and Egyptian media reported on July 6.

The draft law, which could criminalize reporting statistics on militant attacks that contradict government statements, has been condemned by journalists.

The Supreme Judiciary Council approved most of the draft law, but objected to special terrorism courts for cases it said could be handled by criminal courts.

It also objected to a provision that required only lawyers and not their detained clients to be present for trials.

A government official said the law would be sent back to the cabinet which will make the suggested revisions.

But the government is not required to change one of the law’s most controversial articles, which stipulates a minimum two-year sentence for anyone who reports casualty tolls from militant attacks that stray from government figures.

The law came partly in response to coverage of militant attacks on soldiers in Sinai on July 2.

The military said 21 soldiers were killed in the attacks, after several media outlets reported higher tolls from security officials.

The official said condemnation of that provision by rights activists and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate was “an overreaction” by the press.

“There are a lot of brakes” in the article, he said.

The article bans “intentionally reporting false information on terrorist attacks that contradicts official statements.    

“The intent of the article necessitates that the false information is reported intentionally, with malice,” said the official.

The country has been fighting a jihadist insurgency in Sinai since the army, then led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The attacks have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, while more than 1,400 people, mostly Morsi supporters, have been killed in a crackdown on protests.