By APCNews 28 November 2013
Yesterday, Egyptian authorities issued warrants for the arrest of top secular activists who organised demonstrations against a law passed earlier this week by the military-backed government that bans public political gatherings of ten or more people. (1)
Warrants for the arrest of Alaa Abdel-Fattah and others were issued on Tuesday for allegedly inciting others to violate the protest law. The warrants for arrest are based on new laws and a subsequent crackdown on dissent, both of which are in violation of the human rights to freedom of expression and association. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, has said the law is seriously flawed and must be amended (2) “This is a country whose people have proclaimed loudly, clearly, courageously and repeatedly their desire to be able to demonstrate peacefully in accordance with their international human rights,” she said. “Egyptian civil society organizations and human rights defenders raised many concerns, but unfortunately these have not been taken into account.”
Alaa Abdel-Fattah has worked with APC on the use of the internet for social justice since 2004. He is a colleague and valued member of our network, particularly in promotion of free and open source software. His partner Manal has also contributed to APC’s work with the Human Rights Council in 2011.
This week has seen disproportionately heavy sentencing of protesters including women and youth, beatings and abuse of public demonstrators, and general escalation of a domestic crisis for secular and Islamist activists alike.
Activists have taken to social media to tell their stories of beatings and arrests by police. Both secular and Islamist activists are targeted equally by the new law as it appears its purpose is to crack down on all dissent against the current regime.
Speaking today, Abdel-Fattah said ”The charge – it appears – is that I participated in inviting people to protest yesterday, in front of the Shura Council building, against placing – for the second time – an article in the constitution legitimizing the court-martial of civilians. The strange thing is that both the Prosecutor and the Ministry of the Interior knew that I was present for 8 hours at First Police Station New Cairo in solidarity with the people arrested yesterday on the same charges. But neither the Prosecutor nor the MOI ordered my arrest at the time or demanded that I be questioned. This probably means that they intend to put on a show where I play the criminal-in-hiding… Despite all this, I have decided to do what I’ve always done and hand myself in to the Public Prosecutor.”
Speaking via media Abdel-Fattah advised “I have officially informed the Prosecutor’s Office by telegram (N0 96/381 dated today), and by letter (delivered by hand to the Public Prosecutor, registered number 17138 for 2013), as I have informed the Attorney General for Central Cairo (telegram no 96/382) of my intention to hand myself in on Saturday November 30 at 12 mid-day to the Prosecution at their Qasr el-Nil office.”
APC denounces these heavy-handed measures and call for the immediate withdrawal of the warrant for arrest of our colleage Alaa Abdel-Fattah and others who have simply acted to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.
Update: Abdel-Fattah has been arrested. Follow @alaa on Twitter for continuous updates.
_Image by Steve Rhodes _