Egyptian security forces Tuesday cracked down on demonstrators rallying against the draft constitution, two days after a new protest law criticized by rights groups came into effect, dpa reported.
Police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse activists shortly after they began a protest against a provision in the draft constitution permitting civilians to be tried by military courts, a participant told dpa.
Police, some with their faces masked, then chased and seized protesters as they fled from outside the parliament building in central Cairo where the committee charged with drafting the constitution was meeting.
Forty demonstrators were arrested after they blocked a street and attacked police, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
Nine of the constitutional committee's 50 members announced that they were suspending their membership in protest at the arrests, Al-Ahram said.
Prime Minister Hazem Beblawy met with members of the anti-Islamist National Salvation Front and youth groups and agreed to form a committee to consider objections to the protest law, a statement on his office's official Facebook page said.
Earlier in the day, security forces used water cannon against protesters commemorating the death of a demonstrator, who was killed in clashes with police during the rule of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
The protest law signed by interim president Adly Mansour on Sunday requires organizers of demonstrations to give three days notice to police, who may ban any protest if they consider there is a threat to peace or security.
It has been harshly criticized by local rights groups as well as Amnesty International, which said it "poses a grave threat to freedom of assembly and gives security forces a free rein to use excessive force".
Security forces have repeatedly cracked down on Islamist protests since the military deposed Morsi in July, but Tuesday's events appear to mark a new hard line against secular protesters too.
Meanwhile, in the restive Sinai Peninsula, troops killed a senior Islamist militant leader during a raid, according to an army statement.
Muhammad Hussein al-Muharib, known as Abu Mounir, was killed in an exchange of fire in the village of al-Muqataa, near the provincial capital of al-Arish, army spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali said on his official Facebook page.
Al-Muharib was considered the chief legal authority of the Islamist extremist groups in Sinai, and was a suspect in attacks on the armed forces, Ali said.
Al-Muharib's son and another suspect were also killed in the fighting, the statement said, while four suspects were arrested and a member of the security forces was wounded.
The rugged Sinai Peninsula has seen regular attacks by militants since the revolution that overthrew long-term president Hosny Mubarak in 2011. The attacks have intensified since Morsi's ouster.
In August, the armed forces said they were launching a major campaign against militants in the Sinai, the second in as many years.
Locals have complained of unjustified arrests and attacks on civilian buildings.