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Egypt issues arrest order for two activists

An Egyptian prosecutor has ordered arrest of two prominent activists, including one who played a leading role in rallies that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, the country’s former president, in 2011.

Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Maher, a founding member of April 6 Youth Movement that played a frontrunner part in 2011 protests, are accused of inciting protests.

Maher and Fattah took part in protests outside the parliament on Tuesday that defied a new law that restricts demonstrations.

Twenty-four other activists were detained at the Tuesday's protests for four days pending investigation of allegations of thuggery, attacking public employees, stealing wireless devices and protesting without permission, said a source to Reuters.

The new law, passed by the army-backed interim government on Sunday, has angered some Egyptians and drawn fire from various human rights groups that describe it as a significant blow to freedoms in the most populous Arab country.

The law, which authorises security forces to gradually step up force while dispersing protests, allows them to first issue verbal warnings to protesters, then use water cannon/tear gas and, finally, birdshot against demonstrators.

It also stipulates that protest organisers have to give three days' notice before holding any protests actions.

"The law must be repealed … The interior ministry does not want any protests," said Ahmed Maher in Tuesday’s rally, adding, "Even under Mubarak we could hold protests."

'Threat to freedom of assembly'

Amnesty International, a London-based human rights group, said the law was a "serious setback that poses a grave threat to freedom of assembly and gives security forces a free rein to use excessive force, including lethal, against demonstrators".

Egypt has experienced some of its worst civilian violence in decades after the army, prompted by mass protests, removed Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Mursi, the country's first democratically elected president, on July 3. Hundreds died and were arrested in the process.

Liberals and activists, who backed Mursi's overthrow, are now becoming more vocal against the military and its practices.


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