A judge at Egypt’s Court of Cassation withdrew on Thursday from the case of imprisoned political activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who is appealing a five-year sentence for violating Egypt’s protest law, state newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
The judge gave no clear reason for his decision, only citing “embarrassment.” He referred the case to another circuit, while setting a new trial date for November 8.
Alaa Abd El Fattah – a software engineer, blogger and activist – was one of the public faces of the 2011 revolution that removed Hosni Mubarak from power.
He was arrested along with 24 others, and sentenced in 2015 to five years in prison over charges including protesting without a police permit and attacking a policeman.
The activist’s initial sentence of 15 years was later reduced to five years after a retrial. Abdel Fattah has so far served three-and-a-half years of his term.
All others sentenced in the case have been pardoned by the president on separate occasions.
Ten major Egyptian rights groups on Wednesday urged an appeals court to free the 35-year-old Abdel Fattah, and to “uphold justice and the rule of law and to rectify gross violations of the law” which they say led to Abdel Fattah’s imprisonment.
The rights groups said the trial had been “full of violations of the law and without procedural safeguards.”
Recent weeks have seen a growing social media campaign for the activist’s release, using the hashtag “#Free_Alaa”.
The case was among the most prominent in a series of trials of secular dissidents who have been jailed along with thousands of Islamists since July 2013.