24 protesters, activist Abdel-Fattah detained pending investigations

Ahram Online, Friday 29 Nov 2013

The protesters, who were arrested at a demonstration on Tuesday, have started a hunger strike in protest at their treatment

Muslim Brotherhood
Supporters of Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi flee from tear gas fired by riot police around the Qubba Palace in Cairo, November 29, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Prosecutors have charged prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah with breaking a controversial new protest law, and have ordered his detention for four days pending investigations.

Abdel-Fattah was arrested at his home late on Thursday, according to a statement released by fellow activists.

"They (the police) had no search warrant and when his wife, Manal, demanded to see it they were both beaten," read the statement, adding that the couples' computers and phones were confiscated in the process.

"Their two-year-old son, Khaled, was asleep in the next room," read the statement.

Arrest warrants were issued for Abdel-Fattah and Ahmed Maher, the founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, on Wednesday, based on charges that they had called for protests the day before without taking the necessary steps required by the new law on demonstrations.

The new legislation, which came into force on Sunday, requires protest organisers notify the police three days in advance of any public demonstration of more than ten people. Under the law, authorities are entitled to ban the protest if they think it constitutes a threat to public order. Those who violate the law may be subject to jail terms.

Prosecutors have also charged Abdel-Fattah with thuggery and incitement of violence, based on allegations that a policeman was assaulted by protesters and had his radio stolen during the Tuesday demonstration. According to the same report, prosecutors stated that the protesters involved were from the April 6 Youth Movement.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah
FILE - In this Tuesday, March 26, 2013 file photo, Prominent Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah is surrounded by supporters after his release from detention in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo: AP)

Abdel-Fattah has said publicly that he did not call for the protest on Tuesday, but that he would nonetheless turn himself over to prosecutors. According to the activists' statement, he informed the prosecutor-general’s office "by telegram and registered letter" prior to the Thursday police raid on his home that he would do so.

According to Al-Ahram's Arabic website, Abdel-Fattah told prosecutors during questioning that he had not been involved in organising the protests.

Six female activists who are part of the No to Military Trials group had presented themselves to the prosecution office on Wednesday and stated that they were the organisers of the protest. No charges were brought against them, and they were not detained.

After his arrest, Abdel-Fattah was detained overnight at a Central Security Forces barracks at Cairo-Alexandria road, according to his sister Mona Seif, also a prominent activist.

Seif published the information on her Twitter account, which was subsequently hacked and suspended.

Abdel-Fattah, one of the most well-known Egyptian rights activists, has actively opposed ousted presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi, as well as the ruling military council that took power after Mubarak's ouster. He has also opposed the current interim authorities in Egypt.

He was detained under the Mubarak regime for 45 days and again under military rule in 2011 for almost two months.

Along with other prominent figures, including popular satirist Bassem Youssef, he faced charges under Morsi's government in 2013, but was not detained.
Two demonstrations on Tuesday, one commemorating a protester killed last year and the other a rally against military trials for civilians, were dispersed by police, and dozens of demonstrators arrested.

While a group of female detainees were released on a desert highway after being allegedly beaten and sexually assaulted by police, 24 male protesters remain in custody.

The 24 protesters will be detained for 15 days pending investigations into charges that they have violated the new law and assaulted security forces, rights lawyers reported. They started a hunger strike on Thursday in protest at their treatment, while their lawyers withdrew from interrogations of the detained men, alleging that the defendants had been subject to torture.

Demonstrations took place in a number of Egyptian cities on Friday by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, and in some places clashes broke out with local residents and security forces. The protests were the first such pro-Morsi rallies to take place since the enacting of the new protest law.

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