Leading Egyptian activist gets 15 years jail

Alaa Abdel Fattah is considered to be one of the most prominent activists in the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak

Shounaz Meky - and Eman El-Shenawi - Al Arabiya News
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An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced to 15 years in jail activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, a symbol of the 2011 revolt against Hosni Mubarak, for violating the country’s Protest Law and attacking a police officer.

Abdel Fattah was arrested last November for protesting against an article in the Egyptian constitution that allows the military trial of civilians under certain circumstances.

Infographic: Who is Alaa Abdel Fattah?

Infographic: Who is Alaa Abdel Fattah?
Infographic: Who is Alaa Abdel Fattah?

The prominent blogger, along with 24 other co-defendants, was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail by a Cairo court.

The defendants are accused of several crimes, ranging from violating the Protest Law, illegal assembly, acquiring weapons during a protest, blocking roads and attacking a police officer.

Human rights defender Mona Seif, who is also Abdel Fattah’s sister, said her brother was arrestedalong with two co-defendants immediately after the ruling was issued, as they were waiting to be allowed to enter the Cairo court.

Abdel Fattah’s father told Agence France-Presse his son will be granted a retrial while he is in custody.

"According to Egyptian law, the ruling is in absentia because the defense lawyers had not presented their case," Seif told AFP.

The protest, organized by the No Military Trials for Civilians group, took place in front of the Shura Council on Nov. 24. It was attended by several groups, including the anti-Mubarak 6 April Youth Movement.

Abdel Fattah was later arrested and held in custody until March 2014, when he was released on bail.

A spokesman for Egypt’s April 6 Movement, which was also a symbol of the anti-Mubarak uprising, criticized the sentence, accusing the judicial system of being “politicized.”

“We see that the judicial system is politicized and that they are inclined towards Egypt’s newly elected president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,” said Sherif al-Rouby.

“The verdict is in line with the current state’s crackdown on most forms of opposition, including activists who participated in the January 2011 revolt.”

“Egypt’s protest law is against the people’s freedom rights. Today’s verdict just proves that we are on the verge of a much more repressive state if compared to Egypt under Mubarak.”

Subject to appeal

Meanwhile, political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan told Al Arabiya News that although the court ruling is subject to appeal, it would still trigger negative reactions on a political level.

Hassan said court sentence amounted to 15 years because the co-defendants are accused of several crimes along with violating protest law.

“But from now until the ruling is appealed, the verdict will trigger negative reactions on a a social and political level.”

“The verdict will be well received by a sector of Egyptians who want a state that holds a strong fist against attempts of breaching order and security.”

“But politicians, activists and intellects would consider this verdict shocking and would express their political resentment towards it.”

Hassan said the ruling will be “politically exploited” by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Mohammad Mursi.

“The Brotherhood and its supporters can use the ruling as to provoke youth against the current authorities, which would increase the quarrel between them and the state.”

Since it was issued in November 2013, secular activists have lashed out at the authorities over the law.

The law obliges demonstrators to inform authorities of their intention to assemble three days prior a public meeting.

Question marks

Esraa Abdel Fatah, an Egyptian internet activist and blogger, spoke of her anger at the verdict.

“Of course I respect the Egyptian judiciary, however I still do not understand why the jail term amounted to 15 years,” Fatah told Al Arabiya News on Wednesday

“We also condemn the fact that the defendants and their lawyers were booted out of the trial and the verdict was announced without them being inside the court.

“How could the judiciary allow this to happen? We need an explanation as this is a violation of judicial proceedings. I believe the defendants will appeal against the verdict,” Fatah added.

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