Laila Soueif, mother of detained blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah, hosted more than 40 people who wanted to show solidarity with her son at her Cairo home on Wednesday.
The long-time leftist activist and founder of the 9 March movement for academic independence has been on hunger strike for five days.
Soueif began her strike on Sunday to demand that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) drop all charges of incitement to violence levelled against her son in the case of the deadly clashes that took place on 9 October in Maspero, Cairo.
Soueif is also calling on the SCAF to end the practice of trying civilians in military courts and to release all 12,000 individuals that have been tried and convicted in military courts for common crimes since the military council took power in February.
More than 50 people packed Soueif’s home, including family friends, political activists, journalists and a number of unrecognised well-wishers.
Journalists from Al Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, Al-Masry Al-Youm, Ahram Online and Al-Shorouk all visited with Soueif to ask her questions and file reports about her and her son’s plight.
"Look how healthy I am! People will think I cheat and eat secretly!” Soueif, in high spirits, joked.
As of yesterday, six people had announced that they were embarking on hunger strikes in solidarity with Soueif and to demand the release of all those tried by SCAF who are now languishing in military jails.
Hunger strikers include political activist Islam Elsayed El-Eissawi; Mohamed Hashem, director of the Merit Publishing House; and Taqadom El-Khatib, a professor at Mansoura University and one of Soueif’s colleagues in the 9 March movement.
Two of the hunger strikers are individuals who have been personally impacted by SCAF’s tactic of trying civilians in military courts. One of these is Mohamed Abdel Moneim, an epileptic currently serving a three-year sentence meted out against him by a military court in Assiut.
Friends and family of the 23-year old blogger have tried to persuade him not to stop eating, but Abdel Moneim, who is also in the midst of a fight against SCAF’s decision to try him as a civilian in a military court, insisted on joining the fight for Alaa’s freedom.
The other individual who has also had a run-in with SCAF is Sahar Maher, a university student and a freelance photographer who faced questioning by military prosecutors over the summer. The army accuses her of breaking the law by taking pictures of military facilities during a recent demonstration.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Seif El-Islam, Alaa’s father and a private lawyer in the case, told Ahram Online that the family expected military prosecutors to make a decision on whether to release Alaa or extend his 15-day incarceration pending trial within the next 72 hours.
Seif El-Islam told reporters that the army’s charges against his son were totally unfounded and unsubstantiated. He added that he intended to present facts to show that the army had no case against Alaa.
Soueif, meanwhile, is expected to return to work on Saturday at the end of a weeklong Eid holiday, but plans to continue her hunger strike while tending to her professorial duties at Cairo University.
Seif El-Islam told Ahram Online that the family had officially notified the prosecutor-general’s office that Alaa’s mother was also on hunger strike, adding that he expected the government to send physicians to verify that she was not eating.
Earlier this week, Alaa’s supporters circulated an online appeal to the international community to express solidarity both with the detained blogger and all other civilians who faced – and are facing – military tribunals.
Meanwhile, Alaa’s family learned Thursday that at least 14 other individuals had declared hunger strikes within the last 24 hours in solidarity with Alaa and his mother.