Egyptian Blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah Sentenced to Five Years in Jail

Alaa Abdel Fattah in a cage at his hearing today. Photograph shared by @amirahoweidy on Twitter

Alaa Abdel Fattah in a cage at his hearing today. Photograph shared by @amirahoweidy on Twitter

Prominent Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah, an icon of the Egyptian revolution, was sentenced to five years in prison today for allegedly taking part in a protest and “assaulting a policeman and stealing his walkie talkie.” He was also fined 100,000 Egyptian pounds (13,000 US dollars).

The verdict was delivered a few minutes after the hearing opened. It was received by chants from angry relatives and journalists calling for the overthrow of the military regime, now in control of Egypt.

Abd El Fattah is one of 25 defendants in what has become known as the Shura Council case. He was first arrested for this case on November 28, 2013. Last June, he was sentenced to 15 years in absentia and given a 100,000 Egyptian pound fine after being convicted of attacking a police officer and violating a 2013 protest law that prohibits unauthorized demonstrations. According to Mada Masr, which quoted the state-owned Ahram Gate website, they are accused of: “organizing an unauthorized protest outside the Shura Council in Cairo, attacking a police officer, stealing a walkie-talkie, hooliganism, aggression against police officers, blocking the road, crowding a public place and destruction of public property.”

After an appeal by his lawyers, Abd El Fattah was issued a retrial in August 2014. On September 15, 2014, the presiding judge recused himself from the case after an incident a week earlier, in which the prosecution presented a video depicting Manal Hassan, Abd El Fattah’s wife, dancing. Taken from Hassan’s laptop, which confiscated by police when Abd El Fattah was arrested and taken from his family’s home in November of 2013, the video bears no discernible relationship with his political activities.

The saga came to a complete circle today, with the new judge issuing a five year jail sentence against Abd El Fattah and another defendant Ahmed Abdel Rahman, who was passing by the protest, and was arrested along with Abdel Fattah, as he was helping some girls who were being harassed by the police. Abdel Rahman was also slapped a similar fine. Eighteen other defendants were sentenced to three years in prison and three years on probation, in addition to a similar fine.

Mohammed Aziz shares a sound bite of the verdict (Arabic) and its aftermath on SoundCloud here.

According to journalist Sherine Tadros, who was in court when the verdict was read:

She further adds:

Abd El Fattah has been jailed or investigated under every Egyptian head of state who has served during his lifetime. In 2006, he was arrested for taking part in a peaceful protest. In 2011, he spent two months in prison, missing the birth of his first child, Khaled. In 2013, he was arrested and detained for 115 days without trial. And he now faces five years in prison.

Abd El Fattah has long worked on technology and political activism projects with his wife, Manal Hassan. He comes from a family of prominent human rights advocates. His father, prominent human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif El Islam, was jailed multiple times under the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Alaa was detained when he died. Abd El Fattah’s sisters, Mona and Sanaa Seif, have both faced censure in connection with their activism on military trials in the country. Sanaa Seif is currently in jail serving a three-year sentence, also for allegedly violating the controversial protest law.

Just before the trial started, renowned Egyptian writer, Ahdaf Soueif, who is Abd El Fattah's aunt, tweeted:

She also shared this photograph showing the heightened security in court:

And she adds:

Relatives blew kisses and gestured with their hands to their loved ones, in cages with glass panelling, made to ensure they did not hear each other. Laura Dean shares this photograph from inside the court:

But not all journalists and relatives were allowed into the session. As journalist Omar Robert Hamilton reports:

Lessons from Alaa's Sentencing:

On social media, Abdel Fattah's sentencing caused an uproar.

Egyptian Mina Fayek notes:

Lobna Darwish adds:

Teach your children never to stand up for justice; if they see people bullying others on the street, ask them to turn to the other side. And Egypt will be mighty.

Hermas Fawzy cautions:

Those of you remaining quiet over injustice, never forget that the curse is far from you

Libyan-American blogger Hend remarks:

And Egyptian activist and blogger Ahmad Gharbeia wonders:

Has anyone ever been sentenced since 2011 with any relation to the revolution other than the revolutionaries?

Despite a “revolution” activists continue to be punished for their work in an equally autocratic Egypt — an Egypt they created by leading demonstrations which called for the overthrow of the previous regime.

The Shura Council case will now go to the court of cassation, prolonging an agonising saga which started in November 2013.

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