CAIRO — Egyptian security forces firing tear gas and water cannons on Friday broke up antigovernment demonstrations by Islamists defying a draconian new law restricting protests.
Authorities are seeking to halt unrest by both Islamists and secular activists as a government-appointed assembly tries to finish a final draft on an amended constitution by early next week. The draft has raised criticism from democracy advocates for increasing powers of the military and president.
Since a popularly backed military coup ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July, his supporters have been staging near-daily protests calling for his reinstatement. The rallies have often descended into street clashes with security forces.
To quash pro-Morsi rallies, which have persisted despite a heavy security crackdown, the military-backed government issued the law Sunday banning protests without a police permit. On Thursday, a student was killed when police put down a march by Islamists from Cairo University.
The law, however, has sparked new protests by Egypt’s secular activists, who had been largely muted since the ouster of Morsi. They accuse the government of giving free rein to police abuses and military power that they had aimed to end with the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
They say the law aims to silence all dissent, particularly ahead of a nationwide referendum on the amended constitution expected in January.
In the past week, security forces have forcefully broken up several protests by secular activists in Cairo.