* Could hit debates, rallies ahead of elections - activists
* Thousands in streets as new law announced
* Future demonstrations will need police permission
(Adds more details, comment from rights activist)
By Maggie Fick
CAIRO, Nov 24 Egypt's president signed a new
bill into law on Sunday restricting rallies and other public
gatherings, a move likely to raise fresh questions about the
army-backed government's democratic credentials.
Thousands of anti-government protesters were on the streets
of Cairo and other cities when the new bill was announced on
state media, as they have been regularly in the nearly three
years since autocrat Hosni Mubarak was ousted.
The new legislation will require them to get advance
permission from the police before gathering in the future,
according to a draft seen by Reuters.
"This is quite dangerous ahead of elections - in normal
times also, but (particularly) ahead of elections," said Ziad
Abdel Tawab of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, adding it
could disrupt public meetings including debates and rallies.
President Adli Mansour's approval of the law came as a
50-member committee prepared to vote on an amended constitution
that will be put to a referendum expected in coming months.
Parliamentary and presidential elections are due next year.
Rights groups had urged Mansour to reject the draft
presented to him by the cabinet installed after the army
overthrew Mubarak's successor, Islamist President Mohamed Mursi,
"The draft law seeks to criminalise all forms of peaceful
assembly, including demonstrations and public meetings, and
gives the state free hand to disperse peaceful gatherings by use
of force," read a joint statement issued on Friday by 19
Thousands of supporters of Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood
demonstrated in Cairo and in several other cities, marking 100
days since security forces crushed two pro-Mursi sit-ins in
Cairo, killing hundreds.
Police fired teargas to disperse some of the demonstrations
There was no immediate sign of any reaction to the new
legislation on the streets.
The Brotherhood has faced a harsh security crackdown since
Mursi's ouster. Thousands have been arrested and its senior
(Editing by Michael Georgy)