Robert Mackey, the New York Times
Alaa Abd El Fattah, an influential Egyptian blogger, was arrested in court on Monday in Cairo as he appealed a 15-year sentence for violating Egypt’s ban on attending unsanctioned protests.
His lawyer, Mahmoud Belal, described Mr. Abd El Fattah’s latest arrest as part of an intensifying effort to stifle the voices of the activists behind the anti-authoritarian uprising that began in January 2011. “This is a new episode of abusing all those who belong to the January 25 revolution,” Mr. Belal told Aswat Masriya, an Egyptian news site financed by Reuters.
Mr. Abd El Fattah, who had been free on bail, was jailed along with 19 other defendants also accused of participating in a demonstration in Cairo late last year.
The ruling comes the day after Mr. Abd El Fattah’s younger sister, Sanaa Seif, and 22 other activists were sentenced to three years in prison for attending a street protest in June calling for the release of the first group of demonstrators.
Omar Robert Hamilton, Mr. Abd El Fattah’s cousin, and Sherief Gaber, another dissident blogger, suggested that the court should have taken into account that Mr. Abd El Fattah has never failed to attend a hearing for any of the charges filed against him by each of Egypt’s last four governments.
Alaa has consistently appeared in court whenever summoned. He has returned from abroad, even. Yet he is to be kept in jail again today.— Omar Robert Hamilton (@ORHamilton) October 27, 2014
Remanding someone who has willingly appeared as a defendant at every single case against him since 2006 can only be described as sadism— SHERIEF ASSOC LLC (@sheriefgbr) October 27, 2014
Mr. Abd El Fattah, known to his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers as @Alaa, was bizarrely sentenced in absentia in June as he waited outside to be allowed into the courtroom. To ensure that the authorities could not say that he skipped Monday’s hearing, he posted a photograph of himself waiting outside the court on Twitter.
سيلفي معهد الأمناء. الساعة 8:45 صباحا. و الجيوتاج يشهد. عشان محدش يحكم علينا غيابي. pic.twitter.com/dVBfRRnP93— Alaa Abd El Fattah (@alaa) October 27, 2014
Also on Monday, Egypt’s military-backed government issued a new law that allows civilians accused of vandalizing public property or blocking roads to be court-martialed under the same law applied to “terrorist operations” against facilities “vital” to national security, like gas pipelines, power plants and oil fields, Aswat Masriya reported.
A former researcher for Human Rights Watch, Priyanka Motaparthy, explained that protesters are often charged with blocking roads by Egyptian prosecutors.
Many of those arrested during protests over last 3 years charged with blocking roads--part of standard laundry list of charges in #Egypt— Priyanka Motaparthy (@priyanica) October 27, 2014
Mr. Abd El Fattah was initially jailed for attending a protest in 2013 that was called by a group opposed to the use of military trials for civilians, which was founded by another of his sisters, Mona Seif.
The verdicts against Sanaa Seif and other activists on Sunday were denounced by two other activist bloggers, Omar Kamel and Sarah Carr, who supported the 2011 revolution.
“This is the only Egypt your actions have allowed, one in which innocents are sentenced for standing up for their own rights or the rights of others,” Mr. Kamel wrote in an open letter to his fellow Egyptians. “It is the same Egypt that you’ve had for more than 60 years, and it is an Egypt that has been sinking under the weight of the rampant corruption that you have, if not participated in, then catered to. It is an Egypt in which there is no justice, in which the phrase ‘human rights’ has become a joke, in which ‘human rights activist’ has become an insult. It is an Egypt that is systematically trying to destroy the future of our youth, and crush their souls.”
Ms. Carr, a British-Egyptian journalist in Cairo, wrote on her blog that, “the dust has settled again on a status quo that is grimmer than anything we could ever have imagined in 2010.”
The inevitable, painful, question is whether it was worth it, whether those lives shattered and destroyed have laid the groundwork for something or are just gone. This isn't a question we (people who lived through it and supported it) can answer not only because we perhaps don’t (yet) know but because of the impossibility of answering objectively. Wishing for a world where it never happened would re-animate the dead, return sight to lost eyes, unbreak shattered bones. It would free thousands of political detainees. But it would mean the death of those fleeting moments of untrammeled hope and happiness, of friendships, even love, found during the battle of Mohamed Mahmoud and then lost, of the possibility of a future we are now trying to un-see, of that tomorrow that never came but of which we got a glimpse. How can we wish for that never to have happened, when it has become part of those that lived it even if today it is a hidden scar. That time we jumped off a cliff reaching for the moon.