Egypt Jails Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah For Protesting An Anti-Protest Law
Making it excruciatingly clear that the status quo in Egypt will remain unchanged, iconic pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Egyptian authorities Wednesday, on charges relating to illegally protesting a law against protesting. The 32-year-old blogger — who made a name for himself back in 2011 as one of the main activists pushing for Hosni Mubarak's resignation — is the first activist to be convicted since Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi became Egypt's president on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Abdel-Fattah, who became a renowned figure of the Tahrir Square uprisings over three years ago, was convicted and sentenced 15 years in prison. With no sense of irony, his prosecutors accused him of illegally protesting last year's newly enacted law prohibiting non-police-sanctioned protests. (They also said he took a two-way police radio and blocked traffic, although supporters have pointed out that there's no evidence to back that accusation.) 24 others were also sentenced to 15 years in jail on Wednesday, the latest instance of mass sentencing.
“I haven’t seen this kind of ruling before. It’s not legal and confirms the retaliatory nature of the case,” said defense lawyer Mohamed Abdel Aziz, according to Mada Masr. “There was clear collusion between the judiciary and the police with a sentence that was already prepared.”
The tech-savvy blogger, who comes from a family of activists, has been thrown in jail repeatedly since Mubarak's ouster on charges related to his activism. Back in 2011, when he was put behind bars yet again, he wrote:
The memories come back to me, all the details of imprisonment; the skills of sleeping on the floor, nine men in a six-by-12-foot (two-by-four-metre) cell, the songs of prison, the conversations. But I absolutely can't remember how I used to keep my glasses safe while I slept.They have been stepped on three times already today. I suddenly realise they're the same glasses that were with me in my last imprisonment; the one for supporting the Egyptian judiciary in 2006.
More than anything, the sentencing suggests that the country's intense crackdown will not be going away anytime soon. Since Sisi ousted former president Mohammed Morsi nearly a year ago, the country has seen a period of significant instability with mass journalist detentions, Islamist imprisonments, repressive laws instituted and hundreds killed.
Earlier this week, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International warned that Egypt is in the midst of “a human rights crisis as dire as any period in the country’s modern history;” still, the new president appears to be uninterested in loosening the government's fierce grip on possible dissent. Instead, Sisi has said that he will be prioritizing "restoring security" and that freedoms would have to be structured within "religious and moral principles." Whatever that means.