Egypt: blogger arrested in protest crackdown

Police in Egypt on Nov. 28 arrested prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abdul Fattah who had taken part in a rally outside the upper house of parliament two days earlier, where protesters were calling for repeal of a new law that bans unauthorized demonstrations. Abdel-Fattah was arrested at his home, according to a statement by supporters. "They [the police] had no search warrant and when his wife, Manal, demanded to see it they were both beaten," read the statement, adding that the couples' computers and phones were confiscated in the raid. "Their two-year-old son, Khaled, was asleep in the next room," the statement said.

Arrest warrants were issued for Abdel-Fattah and Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, on the previous day, based on charges that they had called for protests without taking the necessary steps required by the new law. The new legislation, which came into force on last week, requires protest organizers notify the police three days in advance of any public demonstration of more than ten people. Under the law, authorities are entitled to ban the protest if they think it constitutes a threat to public order. Those who violate the law may be subject to prison terms.

Prosecutors have also charged Abdel-Fattah with incitement to violence, based on allegations that a police officer was assaulted by protesters and had his radio stolen during the Nov. 26 demonstration. Abdel-Fattah has said publicly that he did not call for the protest, but that he would turn himself over to prosecutors. According to the activists' statement, he informed the prosecutor-general's office "by telegram and registered letter" that he would do so prior to the police raid on his home .

Abdel-Fattah had actively opposed ousted presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi, as well as the military council that took power after Mubarak's ouster. He was detained under the Mubarak regime for 45 days and again under military rule in 2011 for almost two months. He has continued to oppose the current interim authorities in Egypt. (Ahram Online, BBC News, Nov. 29)

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