Egyptian presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahi vowed Wednesday that if his long-shot bid for office succeeds he will abolish a law criminalizing unauthorized demonstrations.
Speaking at a news conference, the liberal politician who is an underdog running against the popular former Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Sisi, said he was committed to securing freedom of expression if elected.
"Among the urgent matters that I will use my legislative powers to fulfill would be eradicating the protest law and pardoning everyone who has been prosecuted as a result of it," Sabahi said.
The new law obliging protesters to inform authorities three days prior to holding any peaceful demonstration was issued by interim President Adly Mansour in November amid a crackdown against Islamist supporters of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
Liberal protesters also have been imprisoned under the law, among them prominent figures from the 2011 uprising that overthrew longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. They include activists Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel, who are serving three-year prison terms for unauthorized demonstrations.
Sabahi also pledged to abolish recent legislation barring Egyptians from taking the government to court over any business contracts it signs with investors. Cabinet members say the measures are designed to attract investment to Egypt.
"This law preventing [legal] appeals against any contracts signed by the state with investors is not the way to attract new investments," Sabahi said. "It is a democratic, successful and corruption-free environment that would attract new investments."
At the news conference, Sabahi's campaign staff outlined his plans, which include calling perpetrators into account for the violence and deaths that occurred since the 2011 uprising.
Sabahi is facing an uphill challenge against Sisi, who garnered enormous popular support after leading an army-backed coup against Morsi in July. Egypt's presidential poll is scheduled to be held over two days on May 26 and 27.
He may already face a tussle with the nation's high elections committee. Campaigning is supposed to formally begin Friday, and Reuters news agency cited a source with the committee as saying Sabahi could be penalized for airing his platform ahead of that date.
Hassan is a special correspondent.
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