CAIRO- Egyptian police fired tear gas on protesters as a prominent secular activist turned himself in Saturday after being ordered detained for holding a demonstration against a new protest law, security officials said.
Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 movement, one of the main groups that spearheaded the 2011 revolt against long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak, arrived at a Cairo court surrounded by dozens of supporters who chanted slogans demanding the release of other detained activists.
“We won’t leave without them,” chanted the protesters as police fired tear gas to disperse them.
On Wednesday, Egypt’s general prosecutor ordered Maher’s arrest along with another prominent activist, Alaa Abdel Fattah, for holding a demonstration in Cairo a day earlier against the controversial protest law.
The two have been accused of inciting demonstrations against the law, which bans unauthorised protests.
Abdel Fattah was arrested from his home late Thursday in a move that has further angered secular activists who backed the army in ousting Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3.
He has been sent to four days detention and is also accused of beating a police officer during a Tuesday demonstration against the law.
Last Sunday, Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour approved the controversial law that requires organisers to seek authorisation three days ahead of any planned demonstration.
Permission can be denied if the event is deemed a threat to national security.
To the anger of secularists, police have cracked down against all demonstrations, not just pro-Morsi protests staged by his Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.
Activists say the ban is hypocritical, as the army justified its ouster of Morsi as a response to mass demonstrations against his turbulent year in power.
Ziad Bahaa Eldin, a deputy prime minister in Egypt’s interim cabinet, has also criticised the law and called for its review, while Washington, a longtime ally of Cairo, expressed concerns about the law’s “troubling effects.”