Egypt’s veteran blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah (@alaa) was detained today (Sunday, Oct. 30) for 15 days pending investigation after refusing to be interrogated by a military investigator, insisting on his right to be tried before a civil court.
Alaa was called in for investigation last week in light of the Maspiro events in Cairo, where 27 people died and many more were injured after the army cracked down on a Christian-majority demonstration. Alaa was very active in the aftermath of these tragic events, and spent two days at the morgue alongside other activists in solidarity with the victims’ families, while trying to convince them to agree to autopsies and trying to make sure the reports of the autopsies are correctly documented. Alaa wrote a very moving piece of that experience in Al Shorouk newspaper (a translation of which can be found here) in which he repeatedly reminded everyone that solidarity is the way out of any problems in Egypt.
Alaa was in San Francisco when he was called to the investigation last week. His father, veteran human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif El Islam Abdel Fattah, appeared in court and asked for the case to be postponed. Alaa came back to Cairo on Saturday afternoon and appeared in court on Sunday morning. The military prosecutor has filed five charges against him including demonstrating, inciting to demonstrate, assaulting military personnel, destroying public property, and stealing military weapons. Alaa, whose sister Mona Seif (@monasosh) is one of the founders of the No to Military Trials for Civilians group, insisted to be interrogated before a civic judge, especially in light of the fact that the army is facing law suits accusing it as a defendant in the same case, which constitutes a clear conflict of interest. He was detained as a result pending further military investigation.
Alaa has been very active on the blogging scene in Egypt since 2004, when he and his wife Manal Hassan (@manal) started the award-winner blog and aggregator Manal and Alaa’s Bit Bucket (www.manalaa.net). Both bloggers have been very active online and offline in fighting the old regime in Egypt and making sure cases of corruption and police brutality were broken into traditional media. Alaa was detained before in 2006 for 45 days.
Many believe Alaa’s detention comes as a warning to other bloggers and political activists as another step in a series of violations against freedom of expression committed by the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) in Egypt. Several bloggers were interrogated and/or detained including Asmaa Mahfouz, Hossam El Hamalawy, Loai Nagati, and Maikel Nabil, who has been on a hunger strike since August 22.
The No to Military Trials for Civilians group has published a press release condemning Alaa’s arrest in the strong possible words, and asking for his immediate release, together with the other 12,000 victims of military trials in Egypt, who should at least be retried before a civil court. The group called upon Egyptians to refuse to cooperate with military interrogation and to support the cause of No to Military Trials for Civilians. You can read the press release in its entirety here.