Egypt’s military rulers have again been jailing activists, including blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah, prompting freedom and human rights organisations to demand their release.
Diana Eltahawy, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International, said Egypt's security forces have arrested many activists since the ousting of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July. “[Arrests have] been in the thousands and they include members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they also include secular activists. Some of the cases that Amnesty International has documented are cases of women and children who have been thrown in jail, simply for holding placards with slogans against the military. We also know that an estimated 1,400 people have died in political violence, many as a result of lethal and excessive use of force by the army and the police since the third of July.”
Among those jailed is Alaa Abd El Fattah, software guru, blogger and political activist, writes the EFF's Jillian C York.
"On the night of November 28th, security forces raided Alaa’s home, beat him and his wife when asked to see their warrant, and took and held him overnight, blindfolded and handcuffed, in an unknown location. Currently, he is held at Tora Prison, Egypt’s notorious maximum security detention center, historically used to house men suspected of violent crimes and terrorism.
But Alaa is not being prosecuted for crimes of violence. A critic of repressive state practices and a staunch advocate of free information, free and open source software, and Arabic localization in the Middle East, he was one of the first Egyptian netizens facilitating a movement for political change around a simple idea: freedom of expression.
His wildly popular blog—established with his wife, Manal—helped spark a community of bloggers in the Arab World committed to the promotion of free speech and human rights. It won the Reporters Without Borders award at the 2005 Bobs. Their groundbreaking website, Omraneya, collected blog entries across the Arab World, archiving dissent in the face of repression.
Alaa has been jailed or charged under every government to take power in Egypt. In 2006, when he was only 22, he was jailed by the Mubarak government. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) jailed him in 2011. Morsi brought a case against him in 2013. And he is now imprisoned by the current military government. He is not alone in this cycle of persecution. Alongside him now in prison are activists Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel, and Ahmed Douma—all of whom were also targeted by Egypt’s recent regimes. Thousands of other young people are in prison or unaccounted for.
Alaa’s mother, Laila Soueif, one of the founders of the Kefaya protest movement, which is widely credited as one of the key precursors to the January 2011 uprising, commented:
Alaa is one of the most outspoken and uncompromising critics of state violence and repression of his generation. At this particular juncture, those in power are trying to sell the myth that the whole country is united behind them against the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies. The fact that Alaa, who was very vocal in his criticism of the Brotherhood while Morsi was president, is condemning - even more strongly - the current criminal behaviour of the police and the army explodes their myth. Particularly as he is not alone in taking this position. Arresting him and demonizing him in the media is a message to critics of the regime to shut up.
The current government has already handed Alaa (together with his sister Mona Seif) a one year suspended sentence in a similar, but separate, trial. Current charges may find Alaa facing additional years. Ahmed Seif, prominent human rights lawyer and father of Alaa Abd El Fattah says:
“The Prosecution has done everything in its power to impede Alaa’s appeal against his imprisonment on remand. It has been more than a month since the Prosecution completed its investigations and referred the case to the Criminal Court, but lawyers have still not been allowed access to the case file, and neither a district nor a date have been set for the trial.”