Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el Sisi approved a new set of strict counter-terrorism laws on Monday. The laws are said to be aimed at tackling the growing ISIS insurgency in the country. However its critics argue they may be used to crush groups opposing the government such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Sisi staged a military coup in 2013 that overthrew Egypt’s first civilian elected president Mohamed Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian government currently classifies the Brotherhood as an illegal group and hundreds of its members have either been killed during protests or detained and handed politicised mass sentences.
The new anti-terrorism laws establish "special courts" and offer protection from legal consequences for military and police officers who have used force.
Police brutality was one of the issues that provoked the January 25, 2011 revolution in Egypt which overthrew longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
The death penalty will be given to anyone found guilty of leading a "terrorist group" according to the new terror law. The chief concern of rights groups in Egypt is the criteria that the government uses to list such groups as "terrorist."
Anyone convicted of financing "terrorist groups" faces twenty-five years in prison, and those convicted of inciting violence and producing terrorist propaganda face sentences of five to seven years. Finally, journalists will receive a whopping $25,000 fine if they contradict official accounts of militant attacks.
The initial draft of the law recommended prison time for journalists who publish numbers and accounts of incidents that contradict those of the government. The punishment was later reduced to the aforementioned fine.
It is feared that further restrictions on freedom of expression will be imposed on the country. The growing ISIS insurgency lurking in the strategic Sinai peninsula pushed former army general Sisi to enact the law, especially following the assassination of Egypt's previous prosecutor general in June.
Hundreds of Egyptian security forces officers have been killed in the Sinai in the last few months, while ISIS' affiliate in Egypt - Wilayet Sinai - continues to publish videos of its operations in the region.