Egyptian armed guards, pictured in November 2013. (UPI/Ahmed Jomaa) | License Photo
CAIRO, April 22 (UPI) -- The Egyptian government is considering new draft anti-terrorism legislation that, if enacted, would broaden the definition of terrorism and impose harsher sentencing for related offenses.
The decision to expand Egypt's anti-terrorism laws comes as the country grapples with a renewed Islamist militant insurgency.
The Egyptian government, which has decreed the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, appealed in early April to the international community for its support in taking an aggressive response to recent unrest by asking other countries to "take clear a stance, through full cooperation, to drain the sources of terrorism."
In its draft form, the legislation expands the definition of "terrorism" to include acts that "harm national unity;" "hinder the work of educational institutes;" or "damage natural resources."
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program deputy director, cautioned that broadening the definition of terrorism could "potentially allow the authorities to bring a terrorism case against virtually any peaceful activist."
Under the new draft law, the death penalty could be applied to the founder or leader of a group engaging in the newly expanded definition of terrorism. Membership in such a group could garner a 10 year prison sentence.
An Egyptian rights lawyer with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression criticized the draft law, which he views as "being created to limit freedoms, not to fight terrorism."
The Egyptian cabinet is currently reviewing the proposed legislation. There was no indication when the new laws might take effect.