UPDATE November 18th: APC calls for the release of Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, nov. 18 (APCNews)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (APC) November 1 — APC condemns the imprisonment of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, an influential Egyptian activist and blogger and long-time APC collaborator, for his conscientious objection to the use of military courts to try civilians in Egypt.

Alaa has been detained for fifteen days following his refusal to be interrogated by a military court regarding the 9 October Maspero clashes in which several protestors were killed. His arbitrary detainment has sparked protest, with thousands of Egyptians gathering in Tahrir Square.

Mr. El-Fattah has long argued against the trying of civilians in military courts, and has openly challenged the use of such courts when government officials are the accused — effectively allowing the military to act as its own judge. Since the fall of the Mubarak regime, thousands of civilians have been tried in military courts, which critics argue are unfair and result in unusually harsh sentences.

Egypt’s interim military government has shown itself to be intolerant of criticism and unwilling to abide by accepted legal principles. A mounting series of arbitrary arrests and political censorship has fostered an environment that is increasingly hostile for journalists, bloggers, and activists.

Says APC’s Executive Director Anriette Esterhuysen, “APC extends our support to Alaa, his wife Manal, and their families. If his stance helps to focus attention on the need for the military trials of civilians to cease, it would have been worth it.”

APC, the world’s oldest progressive online network, calls for the immediate release of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, and urges the military to abandon its forceful tactics and policies of political censorship. If the current government hopes to preside over a peaceful transition to democracy, it must foster a strong, independent judiciary and a free media, both of which are the foundations of a stable democracy.

Sign the petition to Free Alaa and follow the hashtag #freealaa.

Alaa (pictured left) at an APC meeting in 2004 (APC.)

UPDATE 18 November 2011

Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has issued a 15-day extension to Alaa’s detention. In response, Reporters Without Borders has urged the international community to intervene and address the increasing restrictions to freedom of expression in Egypt.

This latest development highlights the importance of the upcoming Human Rights Council “Expert Panel on Freedom of Expression“http://www.apc.org/en/news/freedom/sweden039s-proposed-expert-panel-explained. The widespread detention and censorship of citizen journalists and bloggers in Egypt is a violation of fundamental human rights and a serious threat to its potential to become a functioning democracy.