Political factions call for protests despite interior ministry's warning

Sunday 24-04-2016 07:19 PM

Protest at the Lawyers Syndicate on Apr. 14, 2016 against the transfer of the Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia

CAIRO, Apr 24 (Aswat Masriya) - Several political forces and public figures have called on Egyptians to participate in protests planned for Apr. 25, while the interior ministry threatened to respond firmly to any attempts to "break the law."

Under the slogan "Friday of the Land", thousands of protesters gathered in front of the press syndicate on Apr. 15 to protest against a maritime border demarcation agreement signed between Egypt and Saudi Arabia earlier in April and stipulating that Egypt will transfer control over two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

Protesters ended their demonstration then but said they will resume protesting on Apr. 25, which coincides with Sinai Liberation Day.

The two disputed islands, Tiran and Sanafir, control maritime activity in the Gulf of al-Aqaba.

The border demarcation agreement, which has yet to be ratified by the Egyptian parliament, has stirred controversy in Egypt. Critics argue that the two islands are Egyptian and accuse President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of "selling Egypt" to Saudi Arabia in return for Saudi aid. 

Among the parties and forces calling for the protests are the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Strong Egypt Party, in addition to a number of student groups and youth movements and the two former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabahi and Khaled Ali.

Ahmed Kamel, spokesman of the Popular Current Party founded by Sabahi, said that the party supports the planned Apr. 25 protests in coordination with other parties from the "democratic current".

Kamel told Aswat Masriya that "choosing Apr. 25 specifically for the breakout of protests coincides with a national occasion, which is celebrating Sinai Liberation Day, to reaffirm also that we hold on to the land and that it will not be given up to any regional power regardless of its size."

The protests aim primarily to emphasise their outright refusal "to relinquish" Egyptian territory, in addition to other issues related to random arrests, he added.

As many as 40 people were arrested on Thursday night during a series of raids on downtown Cairo’s cafés, four days ahead of the planned protests. While most of those arrested were released later, at least 10 people are still being interrogated.

ِAmid calls for protests, Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar warned on Sunday that security forces will respond with "utmost firmness" to any action that disturbs public security.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a speech on Sunday, in commemoration of Sinai Liberation Day, that the state will firmly stand in the face of attempts to destabilise the country and terrorise people.

Different approach

Commenting on the "Friday of the Land" protests that took place on Apr. 15, Kamel said that the interior ministry "restrained itself" although the detention of political activists ahead of Apr. 25 indicates that there is "a different approach" in dealing with the protests.  

If the ministry uses violence in dealing with the planned protests, "it will have to bear the consequences because this would turn the entire day into violence."

Ahmed Emam, spokesman of the Strong Egypt Party established by former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboulfotouh, said that the Tiran and Sanafir islands constituted the issue "that broke the camel's back."

"We are against this regime which thinks only about its own interests and doesn't consider the country's interests," he added.

The now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group is among those calling on Egyptians to "participate vigorously in the popular revolutionary movement on Apr. 25."

Defending the handing over of the two islands to Saudi Arabia, Sisi said previously that both islands lie within the Saudi territorial waters and blamed "evil forces" for the escalation of the situation.

It is not only about the islands deal

The coordinator of the April 6 Youth Movement, Amr Fahmy, said the movement will also participate in Monday's protests, not only over the islands deal but also to protest against the arrests of political activists by security forces.

Fahmy said the movement has not decided on how it would deal with the police if the police uses violence against protesters. "We, as usual, plan to protest peacefully and have no intention of violence."  

He said the movement did not get a permission from the interior ministry to protest.

According to the protest law, which was issued in 2013, assembly organisers must notify the concerned security authorities with their plans for assembly at least three working days in advance. The law also grants the interior ministry the right to cancel, move or postpone assemblies.

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