Egypt’s military authorities must release a prominent blogger and vocal critic of military rule or immediately transfer him to a civilian court, Amnesty International said today after his detention was renewed.
Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah's detention was extended by 15 days on Sunday, raising fears he may face a grossly unfair trial before a military court. He is facing charges of inciting violence against the armed forces, assaulting military personnel and stealing weaponry.
"The military has yet to present any evidence to substantiate the charges against Alaa Abdel Fattah and are denying him a fair hearing before a civilian court," said Amnesty International.
“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is proving increasingly intolerant of any criticism of its actions and is abusing the military courts to settle scores.”
Local NGOs say Alaa was asked to stop criticising the military council and its leaders in exchange for his freedom – an offer he reportedly refused. Alaa Abdel Fattah was summoned for interrogation by the military prosecution after he spoke out against military rule.
This included his criticism of the fact that the military is in charge of investigating the killing of at least 27 people on 9 October, when army officers and riot police violently dispersed protests around the state television building, known as Maspero.
The demonstrations were to protest against discrimination faced by Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.
"It is unacceptable that the military should be investigating the bloodshed that they themselves are alleged to have caused. There must be an independent investigation into these killings," said Amnesty International.
Alaa Abdel Fattah has refused to recognize the authority of the military to detain and question him. A military court had previously rejected his appeal against his detention on 3 November.
Thirty others also detained as part of the military investigation into the Maspero violence are understood to be still serving their detention, pending further investigation.
"Military courts should never be used to try civilians. They deny defendants the right to appeal without reviewing the facts and evidence of the case and lack the necessary independence and impartiality," said Amnesty International.
Amnesty International has called on the military to immediately and unconditionally release anyone detained solely for criticising the army, or for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Laila Soueif, Alaa Abdel Fattah’s mother, has been on a hunger strike since 6 November in protest against his detention. The case has also brought international condemnation.
On 11 November, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the release of Alaa Abdel Fattah, calling his continued imprisonment by the military an “egregious breach of the right to freedom of expression”.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has yet to hold the security forces to account for the excessive use of force used against the Maspero protesters.
Instead, they have continued to insist that the demonstrators were responsible for inciting the violence and have cracked down on those criticizing the handling of the demonstrations.