Hundreds of protesters gathered on Tuesday in front of the prosecutor-general’s office in downtown Cairo, to demonstrate against the summoning of five opposition activists over their alleged incitement of Friday's clashes at the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo's Moqattam district.
On Monday evening, the office of Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah called renowned blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Popular Current member Ahmed Doma, National Salvation Front member Hazem Abdel-Azim, Constitution Party member Ahmed Eid, activist Karim El-Shaer, and journalist and blogger Nawara Negm in for questioning.
The summonses were made after Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud filed complaints with the prosecutor-general against 169 individuals – including party heads, politicians and "thugs" – whom he accused of inciting the violence on Friday.
“Alaa is not going to cooperate with the authorities, but he doesn’t want to put his wife and child through the stress of the police turning up on his doorstep, so he has come of his own accord today,” Layla Soueif, Cairo University professor and Abdel-Fattah’s mother, told Ahram Online outside the court house.
The other four, who have also been summoned, Soueif added, chose to stay at home. “Alaa will not answer questions and he will also refuse to recognise the court proceedings. Instead he will ask for the case to be referred to an investigative judge.”
Those attending the protest, which was called for by the liberal Constitution Party and the No Military Trials for Civilians campaign, chanted against the Muslim Brotherhood, President Mohamed Morsi and the prosecutor-general, saying “they [the government] said freedom and justice, we have only seen cheating and villainy.”
Some held signs reading “We are all Alaa Abdel-Fattah” and “We are all Ahmed Doma,” making reference to revolutionary Facebook group “We are all Khaled Said.”
Abdel-Fattah arrived at 1pm, with his 14-month-old child and wife Manal, dressed in white, the only colour allowed for those in temporary detention, holding a rucksack in case, he told the crowds, he was detained. Those gathered outside the court house responded by chanting “Alaa, you being in jail will set us free.”
Protests hold signs showing solidarity with five summoned activists in Brotherhood clashes case (Photo: Bel Trew)
Shortly after entering the judicial building, Abdel-Fattah said via Twitter that no one was there to receive him. He later said via Twitter that prosecutors were questioning him about a tweet in which he was mentioned but had not written.
Abdel-Fattah was interrogated for a few hours before being released, although it is unclear whether the charges have been dropped and if he will face further questioning.
Former presidential candidate and human rights lawyer Khalid Ali, whose arm was in a sling after being injured during Friday’s clashes, also attended the protest and led chants demanding the end of the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood’s highest authority, the supreme guide.
It is unclear what is behind the complaint filed against the activists. Maha Maamoun, from the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre whose lawyers are managing Abdel-Fattah’s case, told Ahram Online that details of the charges and evidence have yet to be made public.
“We don’t know what information is being used against Alaa but we believe he will be detained today,” Maamoun added. Abdel-Fattah has been summoned by the prosecutor-general at least two times in the past and he was jailed in 2006 and 2011 for political reasons.
Abdel-Fattah refused to answer questions by military prosecutors regarding the Maspero massacre in October 2011. As a result he was jailed for two months and missed the birth of his first child.
Many of the protesters gathered at the courthouse told Ahram Online that they believed the sequence of events surrounding the summonses cast doubt on the independence of the judiciary.
“One day before the summoning, Morsi threatened activists and the media in his speech [on Sunday at the Initiative for the Rights and Freedoms of Egyptian Women]. This shows Morsi knew about the decision before it was announced. The complaints were initially filed against the five activists, and a total of 169 individuals, in the morning, yet the five were summoned by 4pm, which is very fast,” said activist Nazly Hussein, outside the judicial building.
“We are seeing the same unjust legal system that has been in place since the Mubarak era," Abdel-Fattah’s mother Soueif added. “They have summoned Alaa again as they want to cow the people, and they mistakenly believe this will quieten the street.”
Hussein agreed, adding that she believes the Muslim Brotherhood and judiciary mistakenly think activists and opposition groups like the National Salvation Front control political reaction on the streets.
“[The clashes in Moqattam on] Friday was the Egyptian people expressing their anger against the Brotherhood," said Hussein.
The Brotherhood, for their part, promised in a Saturday press conference to take legal against those involved in Friday’s bloody clashes near their headquarters.
The group's secretary general, Mahmoud Hussein, claimed “the Muslim Brotherhood were assaulted, we did not attack anyone,” adding that "some of those who claim to be revolutionaries or activists are trying to drag the country towards disaster and civil war in an attempt to force the Muslim Brotherhood to enter a cycle of violence.”
Mahmoud Hussein also accused protesters of attacking the group's headquarters and nearby mosques as well as firing pellet bullets at citizens.
As the fate of activists like Alaa Abdel-Fattah remains in the balance, further protests and unrest are on the horizon.