By Kenneth Changpertitum
Members of the secular activist group the 6 April Youth Movement, including its jailed founding member Ahmed Maher, have begun hunger strikes, according to a report on Wednesday by state-owned media outlet Ahram Online.
The activists are joining a growing hunger strike movement known as “the campaign of the hungry stomachs”, which is calling for the release of activists detained under the controversial Protest Law.
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) in statement 14 September said the law created “a pretext for the prosecution of citizens and fabricating accusations against them for political purposes, in addition to undermining the basic right to assembly and protest”.
The announcement by 6 April comes after the release on bail of activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and two other activists on Tuesday, pending a retrial.
The released activists were found guilty of violating the Protest Law in June after they had protested outside the Shura Council (the upper house of the parliament) following the law’s issuance by interim president Adly Mansour in November 2013.
Abdel Fattah and 24 other defendants were sentenced to 15 year jail terms, handed an EGP 100,000 fine and placed under surveillance for a period of five years.
Abdel Fattah called on his fellow activists to consider practical ways to seize any partial gains for supporting their cause and abolishing the Protest Law.
The ECESR have filed an appeal challenging the law’s constitutionality, according to a statement released on 14 September.
The ECESR stated that the law faced “wide rejection and was considered by many as a means to confer a quasi-legality on the repression of any form of dissent in the country, whether political opposition or workers and community organising to demand clean water or to take a stand against rising prices”.
The decision by the ECESR to challenge the constitutionality of the protests law came during what they said were “the steady escalation of violations against human rights and freedoms in Egypt, the targeting of political and rights activists”.
In mid-June, the administrative courts allowed the challenge of certain articles within the Protest Law, when the commanding officer of the officer of Hadaeq Al-Qubba police precinct banned a demonstration against rising prices.
The ECESR said the decision was a “blatant violation of the 2014 constitution” and that “the appeal was also based on the law’s violation of various constitutional texts founded on the protection of citizens’ right to opinion, expression and assembly”.
The ECESR also said the requirement to notify the authorities of an intention to protest “transformed this notice into a direct permit by the interior ministry, providing it with the authority to approve or deny the notification, in addition to many arbitrary measures”.
In July, Amnesty International released a statement saying more than 16,000 people have been detained over the course of 2014.
Ahmed Maher – along with fellow 6 April activists Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel – are serving three year sentences for allegedly breaking the Protest Law and using force against the police.
A Cairo court banned 6 April Youth Movement earlier this year, accusing the prominent activist group of espionage and defaming the Egyptian state – charges the group vehemently denies.