Egypt arrests man who urged couples to wed soon to avoid marriage 'fees'

Case comes as government prepares to introduce a family law

Newly married couples dance at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo, Egypt Thursday, April 6, 2006. Five hundred Egyptian couples celebrated a mass wedding sponsored by charity organizations to reduce the high cost of this ceremony while families and friends shared this event with them from the Stadium's grandstand.  (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
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A man who urged Egyptian couples to marry before the government introduces a family law that will require them to pay into a fund is facing trial on charges that carry up to five years in prison, law officials said.

Prosecutors charged Yasser Qurish with maliciously spreading false news and with impersonating a maazoun, an official who presides over Muslim marriages and divorces, the attorney general's office said on Friday night.

“He published with ill intentions false news and rumours on his social media account in which he claimed that fees will be slapped on marrying couples under the draft of the family law,” it said. “This has, in turn, disturbed public peace and security and harmed the public interest.”

The statement did not give a date for the trial of Mr Qurish, who was arrested this week.

His social media post followed comments by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi last month on the draft family law that his government intends to send to parliament shortly.

Mr El Sisi said couples must contribute an as-yet-unspecified sum into a fund before they marry. The money will be used to support the children of couples who are divorcing but have yet to reach an agreement on child support.

Mr El Sisi said the sum of the contribution would not be large.

“Whoever can afford to marry should be able to pay,” he said.

“Don't people fight over the size of the wedding party and details of the furnishings?” he said.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said couples who could afford to marry should be able to pay the contribution required under a new marriage law. AFP

The new law also changes the procedure for obtaining a marriage licence, with the medical tests of the couple for hereditary diseases to now be examined by a committee headed by a judge.

The requirement for a contribution from couples before marriage kicked off a storm of satire on social media and unleashed rumours about its size.

Mostafa Bakry, a staunchly pro-government talk show host, called on Egyptians this week not to pay heed to the rumours, some of which put the figure at 30,000 pounds (nearly $1,000).

He said the president's comments had led to couples rushing to marry before the new law takes effect to avoid paying the contribution.

Updated: January 07, 2023, 1:34 PM