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Cablegate: Update: Parliamentary Affairs Minister On

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P 081625Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3796
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 001925

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/07/2019
TAGS: PREL PRGOV PTER KIRF KDEM EG
SUBJECT: UPDATE: PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS MINISTER ON
NOVEMBER LEGISLATIVE AGENDA, CT LAW, AND PLACES OF WORSHIP
LAW

REF: CAIRO 1059

Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d

1. (C) Key Points:

-- Minister of State for Legislative and Parliamentary
Affairs Moufid Shehab confirmed that the new
counter-terrorism law would be submitted to parliament by
March 2010 in order to go into effect before the Emergency
Law expires in May 2010. However, internal disagreements
remain on detention limits and how to deal with those
currently detained under the Emergency Law.

-- According to Shehab, the GoE remains committed to passing
the Unified Places of Worship legislation this year, but is
looking at amendments they feel would assure smooth
implementation.

-- Amendments to the law defining torture and draft
legislation governing NGOs in Egypt may also be presented in
the current session.

2. (C) Comment: In 2007 the GoE extended Emergency Law
despite President Mubarak's 2005 commitment to lift it and
could do that again, potentially postponing it to after the
2010/2011 election season. Lifting the Emergency Law before
the June 2010 Shura Council election would send a signal the
GoE can follow up on its commitments and implement key
reforms. We continue to emphasize that new legislation on
the construction and repair of places of worship is an
important indicator of progress on religious freedom. We
will follow up on proposed changes to the NGO Law given our
continued concerns about the current registration and
oversight process. End Comment.

3. (C) The Ambassador met with Minister of State for
Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Shehab on
September 27 to review GoE legislative priorities for the
November session of parliament. The Minister was accompanied
by his newly named advisor, Dr. Ashraf Mohsen, Deputy
Assistant Foreign Minister and MFA Coordinator for
Counter-Terrorism, member of the inter-ministerial
counter-terrorism law drafting committee, and recently named
head of the Arab League terrorism experts group.

------------------
Legislative Agenda
------------------

4. (C) The Ambassador noted ongoing U.S. interest in the
pending draft counter-terrorism legislation ("draft CT Law"),
the Unified Law on Construction of Places of Worship
("Unified Law") and raised torture legislation and reports of
a new draft NGO law. Minister Shehab said internal
discussions on the legislative agenda continued and that he
expected to present a final document to the Council of
Ministers at the end of October.

-----------------------------------
Draft Counter-Terrorism Legislation
-----------------------------------

5. (C) On the draft CT Law, the Ambassador noted the
importance of lifting the Emergency Law and reinforced her
earlier message that the U.S. remains concerned that any new
legislation balance national security with the preservation
of civil liberties. Minister Shehab agreed on the need for
balance and noted the legislation was largely based on the
British anti-terrorism act. Shehab confirmed that the draft
CT Law would be introduced before March 2010 to ensure it is
in effect before the Emergency Law expires in May 2010.
However, Shehab said the drafting committee continued to
discuss the maximum period of detention by police (reftel).
Shehab said he had advocated against the MOI proposal of 45
days and that no agreement on a number had been reached by
the drafting committee. In contrast, he explained the
Emergency Law currently allows police to detain a terrorism
suspect for an unspecified amount of time. (Note: In a
follow-on meeting with PolOff, Dr. Ashraf Mohsen clarified
that any limit to police detention eventually included in the
draft CT Law would be subject to routine renewal following an
application to the courts by the prosecutor. End Note.)
Shehab underscored his success securing a separate
"guarantee" in the Draft CT Law that would require a detainee
be allowed to challenge his detention before a judge 10 days
after his arrest. The draft also ensures that detainees see

CAIRO 00001925 002 OF 003


a lawyer within 24 hours (as required by Egypt's Penal Code).
Shehab said Draft CT Law would not replace or duplicate the
Penal Code but would add to it, creating special criminal
categories and penalties.

6. (C) In a separate meeting, Shehab advisor Mohsen hinted at
another conflict that has blocked progress in the drafting
committee; how the law would deal with those suspects who are
now being detained under the Emergency Law. According to
Mohsen, passage of the Draft CT Law would result in the
immediate release, without prejudice, of all detainees
currently held under the Emergency Law. Mohsen added he had
not seen reliable numbers from the MOI on the number of
prisoners with this status.

-------------------------------------
Transferring Cases to Military Courts
-------------------------------------

7. (C) Minister Shehab confirmed the draft CT Law would not
affect the transfer of cases of particular concern to the
military courts. He described the military court as a rarely
used option, (Note: Shehab advisor Mohsen cited only 10 cases
referred to the court in the last five years. End Note) but
said cases against members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)
will likely continue to be transferred to the military
courts, calling the MB a danger to the state best handled
"quietly and firmly." Shehab advisor Mohsen clarified that
the President's right to transfer any case from one court to
another is guaranteed by Article 179 of the Constitution (as
amended in 2007) which says the president may "...refer any
terrorist crime to any of the judicial authorities stated in
the constitution or in the law." Shehab highlighted recent
improvements to the military court system, including the
creation of a military appeals court. He emphasized the
president's decision is "administrative" and therefore "in
principle" can be over-turned by the Egyptian State Council.
(Note: The State Council is a constitutionally mandated
judicial body made up of sitting judges that rules on
"administrative disputes" and "disciplinary cases." There is
only one case that we are aware of in which a judge refuted
the President's decision. In May 2007, Administrative Court
Judge Mohammed Al Husseiny overturned the president's
decision to transfer MB Guidance Bureau member Khariat El
Shatter's case to the military court. His decision was later
overruled, and El Shatter is now serving a seven-year
sentence for money laundering and planning terrorist
activities. In June 2009 Husseiny became the President of
the State Council after the retirement of his predecessor.
End Note.)

--------------------------------------------- ---------
Draft Unified Law on Construction of Places of Worship
--------------------------------------------- ---------

8. (C) The Ambassador raised the Unified Law on Construction
of Places of Worship ("Unified Law"), noting that the U.S.
sees passage of a law that would equalize the construction
permits process for churches and mosques as a fairness issue.
Minister Shehab reviewed the history of the Unified Law and
agreed that the current mechanism in which church
construction requires presidential approval is unequal and
unsustainable. However, Shehab noted that the GoE, including
President Mubarak, remain concerned that the Unified Law
would lead to an uptick in requests for the construction of
both mosques and churches and that refusals would be the
subject of lawsuits that would clog the courts. (Note: It
is unclear why the draft would lead to a change in the number
of mosque requests. Currently mosque construction is
regulated at the local level by a committee as the Unified
Law proposes. End Note). Shehab said he was working on an
amendment that would require that any refusal to construct a
place of worship (mosque or church) be forwarded to President
Mubarak for his review. Requests for repair would continue
to be agreed to at the committee level. According to Shehab,
the president's role is designed to help diminish criticism
or resistance to the implementation of the committee's
decisions.

-------
Torture
-------

9. (C) Minister Shehab indicated his Ministry was also
reviewing a change to Article 126 of the Penal Code which
defines torture. Shehab noted that the definition of torture
in the current law defines it as a crime only if in the

CAIRO 00001925 003 OF 003


pursuit of a confession to a crime and does not conform to
the definition in the UN's torture convention, to which Egypt
is a signatory.

-------
NGO Law
-------

10. (C) Shehab confirmed media reports that a new draft law
governing civil society organizations was being circulated by
Dr. Abdel Aziz Hegazi, Chair of the General Federation of
NGOs and Foundations (the NGO syndicate) that would transfer
many NGO-management functions from the Ministry of Social
Services (MOSS) to the Federation, including the initial
authorization process. Shehab called Hegazi's efforts "a
revolution" in how NGO's are viewed in Egypt and said the
amendments would allow for more freedom. The Ambassador
noted that the issue many NGO's raise with the Embassy is not
inefficiencies at MOSS but delayed responses from the MOI in
the processing of registration requests and the authorization
of fund transfers from international donors. In response,
Shehab and Mohsen raised money-laundering concerns,
particularly to MB-affiliated groups. The Ambassador
underscored the need to balance these legitimate security
concerns with efforts to ensure rapid review and diminished
interference in the approval process.
Scobey

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