Egypt Officials Defend New Law Curtailing Protests

No gatherings of more than 10 people without government permission


Egyptian government officials on Monday defended a new law that sharply restricts the right to protest as needed to bring security, trying to counter a storm of criticism from allies and opponents alike who say the rules stifle freedom of expression and endanger the country's democratic transition.

The law, issued by the interim president a day earlier, bans public gatherings of more than 10 people without prior government approval, imposing hefty fines and prison terms for violators. It also empowered security agencies to use force to break up protests.

The protest law has caused cracks in the loose coalition of secular and non-Islamist groups that rallied behind the military-backed government installed following the ouster of elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July.