Egypt's interim president has introduced a new law that could make it impossible for anti-government demonstrators to hold mass protests.
Under the terms of the law, passed by temporary premier Adly Mansour, those wishing to protest will have to obtain seven different permissions before they are allowed to gather.
Overnight sit-ins will also be banned, along with any unsanctioned gatherings of 10 people or more. Police will have the final decision on whether a protest can take place, while demonstrators whose applications are rejected will have to go through the court of appeal to overturn their ban, a process that could take months.
The new protest law is arguably even more stringent than an earlier version drafted during the regime of Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted from power in July amid claims that he was seeking dictatorial control of Egypt.
Morsi's law proposed the introduction of five separate permission stages, although punishments for anyone violating the law would have been more severe.
'Back to Mubarak'
The legislation has already been condemned in a joint statement signed by 19 separate Egyptian human rights groups, before it has even entered the statute book.
During the draft stage, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the law "would effectively give the police carte blanche to ban protest in Egypt. The bill would ban all demonstrations near official buildings, give the police absolute discretion to ban any other protest, and allow officers to forcibly disperse overall peaceful protests if even a single protester throws a stone."
HRW's Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, added: "This draft law would effectively mandate the police to ban all protests outright and to use force to disperse ongoing protests.
"The final law will be an important indicator of the extent to which the new government is going to allow for political space in Egypt."
Gamal Eid, director of Human Rights Information, said that even the laws laid down by Egypt's old colonial rulers were "more just" than the new draft. Speaking to the Guardian, he added that the new legislation "brings Mubarak's era back."