Draft protest bill bans facial coverings

The government is currently trying to pass a law that would ban protesters from covering their faces or lighting tires on fire.

Justice Ministry Spokesperson Mahmoud Abu Shosha told Turkish news agency Anadolu that the ministry was currently drafting the law to counter the recently-emerged Black Bloc and its protest methods.

“The distinction between those who hide their face to escape from accountability, and those who hide it for other reasons, is not difficult," Abu Shosha said.

Article 16 of the draft bill bans the use of masks or facial coverings, while article 14 proscribes burning tires, wood or other flammable materials during protests, according to Abu Sosha.

The Black Bloc emerged during protests marking the second anniversary of the 25 January uprising, and supporters of President Mohamed Morsy have blamed the group for violence and clashes during the protests.

The group has claimed responsibility for some actions, such as arson attacks against some of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party’s officers. Government officials have also blamed the group for numerous other acts of violence, though evidence linking the Black Bloc to such acts is sometimes tenuous.

The new protest law has caused controversy since it was proposed in January, with critics charging that it restricts the right to peaceful demonstration.

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