In brief: Egypt clamps down on large gatherings
CAIRO – Egypt’s interim president on Sunday banned public gatherings of more than 10 people without prior government approval, imposing hefty fines and prison terms for violators in a bid to stifle the near-constant protests roiling the country.
The new law is more restrictive than regulations used under the rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, overthrown in Egypt’s 2011 uprising that marked the start of unrest in the country. Rights groups and activists immediately denounced it, saying it aims to stifle opposition, allow repressive police practices and keep security officials largely unaccountable for possible abuses.
The law requires three-day prior notice for protests. It grants security agencies the right to bar any protests or public gatherings, including election-related meetings of political parties, if they deem it a threat to public safety or order. Protesters can appeal the decision, but the law doesn’t force judges to rule ahead of scheduled protests.
The new law also bars gatherings in places of worship, a regular meeting place for all protests in Egypt and one heavily used by Islamist groups. The law also says the police have the right – following warnings – to use force gradually, including the use of water cannons, tear gas and clubs.
Syrian forces’ siege bringing advances
BEIRUT – Heavy clashes between Syrian troops and rebels trying to break a government siege in the suburbs of Damascus have killed at least 160 fighters over two days, activists said Sunday.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have laid siege for months to rebel strongholds in the Ghouta area east of Damascus, preventing food, clean water, medicine and other supplies from entering in a bid to crush resistance.
The tactic, which activists say has led to famine, has helped government troops capture a string of rebel-held areas over the past month on Damascus’ doorstep.