Egyptians protest over blogger arrest

2011-11-01 07:35
Cairo - Thousands of Egyptians protested on Monday in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of an uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak this year, after a prominent activist was detained by military prosecutors.

The military detained Alaa Abd El Fattah on Sunday, a high-profile blogger whose arrest by Mubarak's security forces in 2006 led one of the biggest campaign to release him in Mubarak's era.

Abd El Fattah refused to be questioned by military prosecutors over "inciting violence and sabotage" in connection with deadly clashes between the army and protesters on October 09, when more than 25 people were killed.

The blogger said the army had no legitimacy to even interrogate him and said he would only speak to a civilian official, prompting his detention pending investigations.

"Field Marshal, the revolution is coming," one protester cried over loudspeakers, referring to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the army council now ruling Egypt.

About 3 000 protesters marched in solidarity with the blogger, calling on the military council to step down.

More than 25 people were killed in clashes that erupted during a demonstration by Christians on October  09, an incident now commonly known as the "Maspero" events.

Protesters said military police used excessive force, firing live ammunition and driving armed vehicles into the crowds. The army defended their actions during the protest and blamed "foreign elements" and other agitators for the violence.

A military prosecution source said they had received footage of Abd El Fattah in possession of weapons they say he confiscated from officers at the scene. Supporters of the blogger doubt the credibility of any such evidence.

'Shifting blame'

Abd El Fattah and another activist Bahaa Saber were questioned for "incitement".

Critics say the army is shifting blame onto activists, instead of conducting an impartial investigation. Seventeen human rights groups said in a joint statement that Abd El Fattah's detention was reminiscent of Mubarak's crackdowns.

"The activist exercised his right to not stand before military prosecution because he is a civilian," the group said.

"We see that the Maspero massacre and its repercussions, which ended yesterday with the detention of Alaa Abd El Fattah are a flagrant challenge to achieving the aspirations of the Egyptian people," the statement added, describing the arrest as an attempt to "distort" the image of activists.

A twitter hash tag used to campaign to free Abd El Fattah, who along with his wife Manal started one of the first blogs in the Arab region, in 2006 was revived by activists on Sunday and has since gone viral. Activists said they will continue their march onto the prison headquarters where he is held.

"We say to the military council, our numbers will grow and you cannot plan to quell the power of the people," activist Mohammed Fahmy said at the march.

Authorities have detained 28 others on suspicion of attacking soldiers. Any trial will be before a military court, a move that has drawn broad criticism from politicians who want the army to use civilian courts and say the military cannot be the arbitrator when it is accused of having a role.

Rights groups say at least 12 000 civilians have been brought before military courts since the uprising that toppled Mubarak in February, calling into question the willingness of the army to transform Egypt into a democracy.

"Military courts should never be used to investigate or try civilians," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, adding that the army has not held its officers to account for using too much force.

"Instead, they have continued to insist that the demonstrators were responsible for inciting the violence and have cracked down on those criticising the way they handled the demonstrations," the London-based rights group added.

Read more on:    hosni mubarak  |  egypt  |  north africa


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Extravagant toys for the rich

What do you get for the person who has everything? Buy them something completely over the top.


Luxury living

The Fast and Furious R40 million
This is the most expensive burger in the world!
Exclusive food items that WILL break the bank
Top 10 most expensive homes in the world

You may find yourself drawn into investigating, researching or digging below the surface to get to the bottom of something. more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.