Harsh punishment needed for road blockers

CAIRO – Blocking roads in protest is a disaster that threatens Egyptian society. It prevents people from going after their daily activities, observers say.
On the other hand, confidence in the government would create stability.
“During Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign, people didn’t have any rights.        They were neglected and humiliated,” Bakr Abou Warda, a researcher at Egypt’s National Research Centre, told Arabic-language Al-Gomhuria newspaper.
The January 25 revolution encouraged Egyptians to fight for their rights, even by using force, according to Abou Warda.
For instance, thousands of protesters marched through the streets of the Upper Egyptian Governorate of Qena in April to demonstrate against the appointment of Coptic police general Emad Mikhael, who served as governor under Mubarak.
Protests broke out the day after Mikhael’s appointment, but they escalated when demonstrators blocked the railway line connecting Qena with Cairo, about 300 miles to the north, as well as several main roads.         Mikhael had been appointed as police general by former Interior Minister Habib Adli, who is currently on trial for corruption and allegedly responsible for giving orders to shoot protesters during the January 25 uprising.
“Similar incidents occurred on many occasions in streets and factories,” said Abou Warda.
Local people suffer from further disruptions. Since the withdrawal of police troops on January 28, thugs benefit from a weak security presence and spread unrest and chaos. “On the other hand, thugs block the roads deliberately to enrage and manipulate people,” he added.
“These criminals steal pedestrians’ money and other possessions. I call on the officials to do their job,” el-Sayyed Bekheit, a driver, complained.
“Blocking the roads affects the national economy negatively. It tarnishes Egypt’s reputation and is bad for business,” Na’el-Naeem, a worker, said. “We need a stable economy.”
Blocking roads also damages tourism, which is a main source of income for Egypt. “Tourists don’t want to visit a politically and economically paralysed country. The roads leading to vital places like Sharm el-Sheikh, Luxor and Aswan need to be accessible,” said Gamal Mazloum, a retired Egyptian major general and security expert.
“The Government has to implement its new law that criminalises protests, strikes and public gatherings. This law needs to be enforced,” Ashraf El-Ayyouti, a worker, said.
“The Interior Ministry is in dire need of restructuring and professionalism,” Mazloum insisted.
In turn, the judges assure that the current penalty law is good enough. “The articles in the penalty law address such crimes as blocking roads, which could lead to long prison sentences (25 years), life imprisonment or even the death penalty,” said Judge Refaat el-Sayyed, Chief of the Court of Appeal.
“Criminals have to be prosecuted. Local citizens should support the police in arresting those who block roads,” el-Sayyed added.

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