Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah jailed for defying military court

Elisabeth Flock, the Washington Post

Prominent Egyptian blogger Alaa Adbel Fattah has been jailed for 15 days for refusing to be interrogated by a military court.

Abdel Fattah declined to answer the prosecutor’s questions Saturday because he said it would not ensure a fair trial. Abdel Fattah has campaigned alongside his sister, Mona Seif, for Egyptians not to be tried by military courts, a move many say is reminiscent of the oppression characteristic of the era of Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted from power in February.

On Twitter, activists and others from around the world denounced the move and showed their support for Abdel Fattah using the hashtag #freealaa, a phrase first used in 2006 when Abdel Fattah was arrested at a peaceful protest and sentenced to 45 days in jail.

Many activists called for the ouster of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the body of top military officers that took over after Mubarak.

In Tunisia and elsewhere, rallies were held outside the Egyptian Embassy to call for Abdel Fattah’s freedom.

Abdel Fattah has been an active blogger in Egypt since 2004, when he and his his wife, Manal, started the much-followed blog “Manal and Alaa’s Bit Bucket.” Many people pointed out Sunday that Manal was nine months pregnant, and shared photos of the two together.

The Campaign to End the Military Trials of Civilians released a statement that said they “condemn in the strongest possible terms” the imprisonment of Fattah, and the “unjust and illegal system of military tribunals implemented by ... SCAF since becoming rulers of Egypt.”

At least 12,000 Egyptian civilians have been subjected to military trials since February.

The campaign says during the trials Egyptians have often been “denied counsel, the opportunity to review evidence or examine witnesses, [and] there are limited avenues of appeal.”

The Oct. 9 clashes, the deadliest since the military took over, broke out after men in civilian clothes attacked Christian demonstrators with stones, and ended with clashes between military personnel and demonstrators.

At least 23 people were killed and nearly 200 were wounded, some of them crushed by military vehicles or shot to death.

Read a blog post Abdel Fattah wrote after the clashes here.

The military has blamed Christians and “hidden hands” for the violence and staunchly denied it intentionally killed protesters.

Many Egyptians are upset with the slow transition the military has made from Mubarak’s regime, and failure in getting rid of the 30-year-old emergency law, which gives the government the power to supress dissent. Many say the military has not only re-activated but also expanded the law.

The military says it will eventually transition the country to an elected civilian government, and that it needs military trials to ensure the country’s security until then.