An Egyptian prosecutor has ordered the arrest of two prominent activists for inciting protests, a source in the Egyptian prosecutors’ office said on Wednesday, including one whose group helped lead the revolt that ousted former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The arrests of Ahmed Maher, head of the April 6 youth movement, and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah were ordered after they took part in demonstrations outside parliament building on Tuesday that defied a new law that restricts protests.
Twenty-four other activists were detained on Tuesday for four days pending investigation of allegations of thuggery, attacking public employees, stealing wireless devices and protesting without permission from the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior, the source said.
The new law, passed by the army-backed government on Sunday, has angered some Egyptians and drawn fire from human rights groups who describe it as a major blow to freedom in Egypt.
Egypt has experienced some of its worst civilian violence in decades after the army, prompted by mass protests, ousted the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, on July 3. It has since introduced a political road map meant to lead to new elections next year.
Liberals and activists, who backed Morsi’s overthrow, are now becoming more vocal against the military, which has backed a security crackdown against Islamists.
Hundreds have been killed and more than 2,000 arrested, including Morsi and the leadership of his Muslim Brotherhood group, which won every election since Mubarak’s downfall.
Pro-democracy activists called for new demonstrations in central Cairo to focus attention on the law.
The government has said it is not opposed to peaceful protests and it wants to restore order in Egypt.
The law will further squeeze the Brotherhood, which hoped mass protests would reverse what it calls a military coup.
The restrictions have triggered a public debate in Egypt, where demonstrations brought down Mubarak and encouraged army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to remove Morsi.
“This law is bad and the minister of interior has done enough and should change,” an engineer said on a call to state radio.
“Our penal law had many articles that they [the authorities] could have used to ban violent protests, but instead they issued a new law that only brought us more protests and tension, a very stupid call,” the engineer said.
The next person to dial in, a police officer, said: “What do people want? We either implement the law or not.”