Egypt hits out at foreign criticism of new anti-terrorism law

Friday 14/08/2015
Egypt needs new law as a major tool in war against terrorism

CAIRO - Egypt hit back Wednesday against foreign criticism of a new anti-terror law that critics claim could restrict human rights and muzzle the press, saying the judiciary's independence must be respected.

The law passed this week widens the definition of terrorism and stipulates strict punishments, as well as providing for media to be fined for reporting "false" details on militant attacks that contradict government statements.

Egypt is battling an Islamist insurgency that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, mostly in the Sinai Peninsula, following the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The government has waged a bloody crackdown on Morsi's followers in which at least 1,400 people have been killed and thousands jailed.

The US State Department said Tuesday it was "concerned" that the law could have a "significant detrimental impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Rights groups have also denounced it.

The law "increases authorities' power to impose heavy sentences, including the death penalty, for crimes under a definition of terrorism that is so broadly worded it could encompass civil disobedience," Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

But the foreign ministry insisted that other countries should "respect the independence of the (Egyptian) judiciary."

"Egypt never commented on laws passed by other countries to counter terrorism, and which were viewed by many citizens of those countries as a restriction on freedoms,’ a statement said.