Prominent Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah has been released on Sunday. His detention on 30 October on charges that included inciting violence during the bloody attack by the military on Coptic rights protesters on 9 October sparked outcry and condemnation in Egypt and around the world.
“Alaa is released,” his sister Mona Seif, said in a tweet late Sunday morning. She is also an activist and leading figure in the campaign against military trails for civilians.
Abd El-Fattah was arrested on charges of inciting clashes between Coptic Christians and the Egyptian army in front of the state TV building in Maspero, which left 26 dead and over 300 injured on 9 October. Video footage showed military Armoured Personnel Carriers running over protesters.
In a prolonged judicial process, Abd El-Fattah initially refused to be interrogated by the military prosecution on the grounds that it did not have the legitimacy to do so. The events, often referred to simply as ‘Maspero’ was one of the bloodiest days since the army assumed power following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February.
The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), under prolonged pressure from protesters and activists, referred the case to the High State Security Prosecution, which is an exceptional prosecution body that functions under emergency law and does not accept appeals but pardons from the head of state.
The #FreeAlaa hashtag went viral on micro-blogging website Twitter. There was already a hashtag against military trials, but the Alaa hashtag became a symbol of opposition to the military trial of civilians.
“Path to innocence”
Around 12,000 civilians have been tried in military courts during the past 11 months. The SCAF denies that it targets activists, insisting that it is clamping down on rioters and thugs. Human rights activists and organisations have made it clear that military trials contravene the right to a fair trial.
“We will continue our path to prove his innocence. Alaa was released pending further investigations into the incident,” his father Ahmed Seif El-Islam told Ahram Online in a phone conversation.
“The judge promised us that he will summon the defence witnesses to a hearing in the next few days. He will also listen to Alaa.”
The charges Abd El-Fattah faces include stealing a military weapon, destroying military property and attacking security forces.
Earlier this month, the court of appeals released all defendants in the Maspero case except Abd El-Fattah, who had his initial 15-day detention renewed several times.
During his time in custody, Abd El-Fattah's son Khaled was born.