Egypt orders activist Abdel Fattah back to jail: family

The activist had been taken into custody after a hearing into his case on charges of participating in an illegal protest

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An Egyptian court ordered prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah back to jail Monday after he was previously freed on bail during a trial for taking part in an illegal protest, a relative said.

His sister Mona Seif told AFP Abdel Fattah had been taken into custody after a hearing into his case on charges of participating in a violent and illegal protest following the military’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year.

Abdel Fattah, 32, was one of the youth activists who spearheaded an uprising against veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and later backed the overthrow of the divisive Morsi.

He and his 24 co-defendants were released on bail in September after the first judge in the trial recused himself. A previous court had sentenced him to 15 years but the verdict was thrown out on appeal.

Hailed as an “icon of the revolution” by the authorities after Morsi’s overthrow, Abdel Fattah and other secular leaning dissident leaders have not been spared an extensive crackdown aimed mainly at Morsi’s Islamist backers.

He was arrested after a protest in November outside parliament against the law restricting demonstrations.

That crackdown has left at least 1,400 people dead and thousands in prison, most of them Islamists.

Another of Abdel Fattah’s sisters, Sanaa Seif, was sentenced on Sunday to three years in prison by a separate court on similar charges, along with 22 other defendants.

They had both participated in two protests against a law, enacted after Morsi’s overthrow, banning all but police-sanctioned protests.

“All the country’s youths are targeted,” their mother Leila Soueif charged after Monday’s court hearing.

New York-based Human Rights Watch denounced Sanaa Seif’s imprisonment in a statement saying the Egyptian “government will clearly go to any length to crush domestic opposition, whether secular or Islamist”.

Washington, which helps bankroll Egypt’s army and has come to terms with the overthrow of democratically-elected Morsi, had demanded Egypt release the “secular” activists during a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry in September

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army general who toppled Morsi after massive protests against the Islamist, has said a firm hand is needed to restore stability in the most populous Arab country after several years of turmoil.

His government is also facing a brazen militant insurgency that has killed scores of soldiers and policemen in recent months, including at least 30 troops in an attack on Friday.