Egypt's cabinet has approved a draft law that would see drug dealers sentenced to death, Al-Masry Al-Youm has reported.
The law, which was presented to the cabinet yesterday, was part of a broader bill to combat the spread of narcotics in the country and drugs trafficking.
The draft amendment states that anyone who "brought or exported synthetic substances with an anaesthetic effect, or harmful to mind, body, or psychological and neurological condition shall be punished by death", adding that those who possessed drugs for the purpose of trafficking could face life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $28,000.
It stipulates a further fine of $11,300 for those found possessing drugs for individual usage as well as a prison sentence of at least one year.
The move comes a week after British tourist Laura Plummer was released early from an Egyptian prison on a presidential pardon, after being convicted on charges of drug trafficking. Sentenced to three years, in October 2017 she brought 290 tramadol painkillers in her luggage, allegedly for her partner who suffers from chronic pain following a car accident.
Drug addiction remains a serious problem in Egypt, estimated to be at twice global rates, with approximately ten per cent of the country, over nine million people, using narcotics.
Tramadol is the most popular drug among users, followed by cannabis and heroin. The usage of Tramadol, in particular, has surged since 2010, with many attributing the rise to the difficult economic situation the country is facing and a sense of hopelessness amongst the youth.
Drugs enter Egypt from South Asia, usually via sea and airports, and are then distributed across the North Africa region and into Europe. Drug trafficking in Egypt is also a core activity of transnational organised crime networks.
However statistics released last month by the Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali revealed that 116,500 Egyptians had been treated for drug addiction in 2018, a 12 per cent increase on figures from the year before. Some 97 per cent of those seeking treatment were men.
Wali said that the demand for treatment increased, in particular after a media campaign that was launched last April featuring Liverpool footballer Mohammed Salah. The video went viral on social media in Egypt, exceeding five million views in the first three days of its release.
The government has also launched an initiative to reduce drug usage among school bus drivers after it was found that all 56 drivers who had been reported for suspected drug use by parents in the first semester of the academic year, failed to pass a drugs test.
According to Amnesty, since the ousting of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, Egyptian civil and military courts issued more than 1,400 death sentences, mostly related to incidents of political violence, following grossly unfair trials, with testimonies often obtained through torture.