Egyptian activists rage following @Alaa's detention by military prosecution

Hatem Maher, Sunday 30 Oct 2011

Political activists hit out at SCAF after famous blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah was detained for 15 days for 'inciting the Maspero clashes'

Bahaa Saber leading chants against military trials after being released (photo by: Mona Seif)
Bahaa Saber leading chants against military trials after being released, his friend Alaa, is detained pending investigations. (photo by: Mona Seif)

Political activists have reacted with fury to the detention of Alaa Abd El-Fattah for 15 days for allegedly inciting the violence that rocked Cairo on the night known as ‘Black Sunday’.  

Abd El-Fattah and Bahaa Saber were both summoned for questioning by the military prosecution on Sunday over the clashes that left at least 26 dead in front of the state TV headquarters (Maspero) on 9 October.

On arrival at the military prosecution headquarters, Abd El-Fattah refused to answer questions on the grounds that the military prosecution had no legitimate right to question civilians.

Fellow activist Bahaa Saber, who faced similar charges, was freed.

"Saber also refused to answer the questions of the military prosecution. As a civilian, he said they did not have the right to question him," his lawyer Ahmed Ragheb told Ahram Online.

"Abd El-Fattah and Saber are facing the same charges but Abdel Fattah is also accused of stealing official weapons."

More than 70 activists gathered outside the C28 military prosecution headquarters to show solidarity with both activists. The protesters started to chant against SCAF as soon as they heard the verdict and were soon joined by Bahaa Saber himself who fought back tears whilst chanting for Alaa.

Bahaa, a father of two children, told Ahram Online that he would have preferred to be put in jail and Alaa released as his wife, Manal Hasan, also a prominent blogger, is expecting their first child within the coming days.

"We know it’s a long battle and we are not the only ones accused in this case. I will join others in the campaign against military trials of civilians for this is the only kind of solidarity Alaa and I need now. These trials have to stop, not only for us, but for all civilians," Saber added.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been widely criticised for failing to halt military trials for civilians despite promising to do so on several occasions.

SCAF said it would only implement such trials for acts of thuggery but critics say it uses them to target activists, most of whom are angry at the ruling military's handling of the transitional period following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak on 11 February.

Abd El-Fattah remained silent during Sunday's questioning, arguing that the military prosecution was not entitled to investigate the deadly clashes which dominated headlines for all the wrong reasons. He said SCAF was actually his opponent in the case.

Mahmoud El-Dabe, a journalist at Sout El-Omma newspaper, last week declined to show up before the military prosecution for questioning over a story he published about the son of SCAF member Mamdouh Shahine.

Controversial blogger Maikel Nabil, who went on a hunger strike after being arrested back in March, took a similar stance.

SCAF has reportedly tried more than 12,000 civilians in military courts since assuming power.

Well known lawyer and human rights activist Ahmed Seif, who is also Alaa's father, said lawyers will contest the prosecution's verdict.

"We have a legal side of the battle that we have to go through, but it is more a political struggle as Alaa decided to be on the frontline of fighting military trials of civilians," Seif told Ahram Online. "This is not the first time Alaa and Bahaa have faced imprisonment as they were both detained for supporting the independence of the judiciary in 2006. They both stood against Mubarak and were ready to pay a price and now they are doing the same."

Abdel Fattah has been transferred to a prison in Cairo.

Angry messages

Social networking websites were flooded with angry messages condemning the decision to remand Abd El-Fattah in custody.

"Abd El-Fattah and Saber are the only men who took the right stance in the case of military trials.  I'm at a loss for words to describe the appreciation I have for them," renowned writer Belal Fadl said on Twitter.

There were calls to hold rallies in front of the prosecution building to demand the release of Abd El-Fattah.

"Anyone who can come should come to C28 (the building's military code). We have to show our rage," activist Lilian Wagdy said.

Hazem Abdel Azim, who was nominated to become the information minister in July but dropped by SCAF over alleged ties with an Israeli telecommunications company when he publicly criticised SCAF and the interim government, added: "We should do something rather than screaming on Twitter."

"I have a message for Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, maybe he can do something after reading it. Do you remember when you praised Alaa and several other revolutionaries when we were all at your home?"

The fresh saga is likely to heap more pressure on SCAF, which vowed to leave office and hand power to an elected president although it has yet to set a definite timetable for the process.

SCAF has already come in for fierce criticism over what many perceive as a clampdown on freedom of expression.

It has reportedly prohibited the publishing of certain newspapers and tried to pressure some TV presenters and channel owners into shifting the content of their shows that it deemed offensive.

TV presenter Dina Abdel Rahman was sacked by Dream TV after she challenged a retired air force major general to back up with evidence his allegations against presidential candidates.

Another presenter, Yosri Fouda, suspended his famous 'Akher Kalam' (The Last Word) show on ONTV after complaining of media restrictions imposed by the military. 

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