In a meeting held by parliament’s legislative and constitutional affairs committee on Sunday evening, justice ministry spokesman Haitham Al-Baqli told MPs that the draft law aimed at stripping defendants convicted of committing terrorism crimes of their nationality contravenes article 53 of Egypt’s 2014 constitution.
“Article 53 of the constitution is clear that it rejects any form of discrimination among citizens and that they are equal before law,” said Al-Baqli.
He argued that “article 53 means that there should not be any sort of discrimination among citizens even in terms of penalties leveled against them.”
Al-Baqli indicated that Egypt’s penal code refrains from stripping the nationality of citizens who are found guilty of crimes much worse than terrorism crimes.
“We see some discrimination here and this violates article 53 of the constitution,” Al-Baqli said.
The draft law, proposed by independent MP and high-profile journalist Mostafa Bakri – which has been approved by 60 MPs — aims to amend article 26 of 1975’s law on Egyptian nationality, which grants the country’s prime minister the power to strip citizens convicted of certain crimes of their nationality.
“This article should be amended so that the prime minister be granted the right to strip citizens found guilty of committing terrorism crimes of their nationality,” Bakri said.
Bakri argued that the amendment of the 1972 nationality law has become a necessity after an Islamic State militant group suicide bomber carried out an attack on a church attached to the Cairo Coptic Cathedral on 11 September, leaving 27 dead and more than 40 injured.
Bakri said “the attack against the church represented a dangerous development in terrorism crimes and that the state should do everything possible to foil these attacks.
”Amending the law to strip convicted terrorists and those who incite them to commit terrorism crimes of their nationality would be a highly effective move aimed at stemming the tide of these crimes,” Bakri said.
Margaret Azer, an independent MP, supported Bakri’s amendment, arguing that ”some European countries such as France have resorted to stripping convicted terrorists of their nationality as a deterrent move aimed at foiling terrorism crimes.”
Sami Ramadan, another independent MP, told the committee that “it is high time to strip convicted terrorists of their nationality especially after it has become clear that most of those who carried out terrorist attacks inside Egypt were Egyptians.”
Ramadan also argued that “Bakri’s legislative amendments would be highly effective in deterring Egyptians who joined terrorist movements such as the IS militant group and the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, Libya, Turkey and Qatar from coming back to their country,” said Ramadan.
“Many terrorism cases have shown that those who plot terrorism attacks against Egypt or recruit resident citizens to carry out terrorism attacks inside the country stay in Qatar and Turkey,” Ramadan argued.
”Most of these who have blood on their hands inside or outside the country hold Egyptian nationality and if stripped of it, it would be a message to such terrorists to have second thoughts before targeting their country again,” said Ramadan.
Bakri attacked the justice ministry official’s rejection of the draft law, insisting that terrorism crimes have become the most dangerous and that the constitution itself allows the government to take all measures necessary and possible to counter terrorism acts.
“Article 237 states that the state should do everything possible to eliminate all forms of terrorism,” Bakri said.
Some MPs, such as the committee’s secretary-general Mohamed Atta Selim, however, expressed reservations, wondering “where terrorists will go after they are stripped of their nationality?”
Bakri said terrorists stripped of their nationality would lose all the privileges of a citizen.
“Not only they will be imprisoned, but they will also be treated as foreigners and those who plot terrorism crimes will not be allowed to enter the country,” said Bakri.
The committee’s chairman Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa said he approves the law in principle, ”but it needs some research to see whether it violates the constitution.”
“I think we need one or two weeks to reach a decision on this matter before this important draft law is discussed in a plenary session,” said Abu Shoqa.
Source: Ahram Online