A top Egyptian official has criticised a controversial new protest law that bans all unauthorised demonstrations, saying it should be reviewed, London-based pan-Arabic newspaper Asharq Al Awsat reported Saturday.
Ziad Bahaa Eldin, a deputy prime minister in Egypt's military-installed government, said he hoped that a consensus could still be reached on the law that has angered secular and pro-democracy activists.
"I personally was not satisfied from the start, and I still have reservations about this law, the way it was proposed and discussed and its timing," Bahaa Eldin said in an interview with the newspaper.
Bahaa Eldin, a well-known business lawyer and economist who became a deputy prime minister after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, has emerged as the face of liberal democrats within the cabinet.
His criticism is the first made by a top government official about the law, which the interior ministry has vowed to fully enforce.
"There must be consensus, and it would not be wrong to look again at the law that has triggered protests. It would not be wrong to see what can be done to have a consensus" on it, Bahaa Eldin said.
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 as a threat to national security.
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To the anger of secularists who supported the ouster of Morsi by the army in July, 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.
Pro-democracy groups have been particularly incensed by the arrest on Thursday of Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent activists critical of Morsi who was detained during the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, during the military junta that ruled after Mubarak's ouster, and again under Morsi.
The United States has also expressed concern about the "troubling effects" of the law.
"We reiterate the concerns we share with civil society representatives inside Egypt that the demonstrations law is restrictive and does not meet international standards," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday.
"Limiting freedom of assembly, association and expression will not move Egypt's political transition forward."
Analysts say the interim authorities were wrong to pass the law, especially since the revised constitution would guarantee freedom of expression.
A 50-member panel drafting a new constitution is to begin voting later Saturday on the final document, which will be put to a referendum.