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Egyptian activist held over protest call

29 November 2013, 11:20

Cairo - Egyptian security forces arrested a prominent political activist on Thursday night over inciting a demonstration in defiance of a new law heavily restricting protests in the country, his family said.

The arrest of Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a blogger who rose to prominence in Egypt's 2011 revolution, quickly dominated social media. His previous detention sparked protests against the military, which appeared likely again as recently quiet liberal and secular groups have expressed increasing alarm over the military-backed government since it enacted the new protest law this week.

Meanwhile, police used tear gas and water cannons on Thursday to disperse protesting students and supporters of the country's ousted Islamist president, sparking clashes that killed one person

Wife beaten

Abdel-Fattah's father, prominent lawyer Ahmed Seif al-Islam, told The Associated Press that security forces raided his son's home on Thursday night in Cairo. His father said that Abdel-Fattah's wife was beaten during the raid and that authorities seized laptops from the house.

An interior ministry official later confirmed police arrested Abdel-Fattah over the warrant, but offered no other details. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak publicly to journalists.

After the raid, Abdel-Fattah's wife, Manal Bahy Eldin, wrote on Twitter: "If police beat me up while I am in my home, what would they do with Alaa? I am very worried about him."

Egypt's prosecutor general had issued a warrant for Abdel-Fattah's arrest and that of another youth leader for allegedly inciting a demonstration on Tuesday, two days after interim President Adly Mansour enacted the new protest law. Among the new rules in the law, it requires three-day prior notice to the interior ministry for protests to take place, while also setting prison terms and high fines for violators.

After the warrant was issued, Abdel-Fattah said he would turn himself in to authorities on Saturday.

"I don't deny the charge," he wrote in a statement. "It's an honour to hold responsibility for people's rallies in defiance to legalising the return of" the rule of Hosni Mubarak, the longtime president ousted in Egypt's 2011 revolution.

The protest law comes as part of efforts by authorities to break the back of near-daily protests by Islamist demonstrators over the 3 July popularly backed military coup that toppled President Mohammed Morsi. While granting police more power, they also galvanized liberal and secular group dissatisfaction with the military.

Abdel-Fattah previously was detained for two months in late 2011 by military authorities over allegations he attacked soldiers carrying out a bloody crackdown on protesters. He was later released without charge. He also was accused of inciting violence during clashes between opponents and supporters of Morsi before his ouster.


- AP


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