The new anti-protest law in Egypt is roiling the country. On Thursday, a student at Cairo University was killed by police using live ammunition against a student demonstration.
Youth leaders of the 2011 revolution are now also being targeted for calling for demonstrations against the law, including Ahmad Maher of April 6 and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah. Maher and other members of the left of center April 6 youth organization had also been prosecuted for protesting by the deposed government of Muhammad Morsi.
Update: On Thursday evening police broke into Alaa Abdel Fattah’s apartment and beat his wife Manal and dragged him off: Alaa’s situation is being continually updated here.
On Wednesday, an Egyptian court sentenced 11 adult women to 14 years in prison for protesting, and the teenaged girls arrested with them (one 15) were ordered to juvenile prison until they turn 21. They are members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s military-backed government, which deposed Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi on July 3, has just passed a Draconian anti-protest law. Ironically, it has much in common with a law proposed by the deposed government of Morsi, which also prosecuted protesters.
Muslim Brotherhood members widely defied the law to protest against it, despite the law’s resemblance to the one they had wanted to impose on the country last year this time. Likewise, liberals, leftists and youth activists have come out to defy the law. It establishes “protest zones” (a la George W. Bush), requires 3 days advance notice of intent to protest, police permission, allows police to use birdshot on protesters, forbids sit-ins, and imposes heavy fines and harsh prison terms on demonstrators who defy the military state. Coming in the wake of the 2011 revolution against dictator Hosni Mubarak, the law is a further attempt by what is left of the old Egyptian elite to put the genie back in the bottle and return to authoritarian governance.
Here is liberal blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah’s statement on the arrest warrant issued for him, as translated by novelist Ahdaf Sueif:
Alaa Abd El Fattah’s today’s statement in English (my version)
Statement of my intention to hand myself in to the Prosecutor’s Office on Saturday mid-day:
A Charge I don’t Deny and an Honour I don’t Claim
For the second time the Office of the Public Prosecutor sends out an arrest warrant through the media – instead of my address – well-known known to them because of their history of fabricating charges against me in the eras of Mubarak, Tantawi and Morsi.
For the second time the office of the Public Prosecutor lets itself be a tool of government propaganda, this time on the orders of the murderer, (Minister of Interior) Muhammad Ibrahim, instead of the Morshid (of the Muslim Brotehrhood). Their reason: that I incited people to demand that trials should be fair and should be the responsibility of an independent civil judiciary. As though it’s bad for the Prosecutor’s Office to respect itself and be respected by the public, it must prove its subservience to any authority that passes through this country –no difference here between a Prosecutor illegitimately appointed at the instructions of the Morshid, and Prosecutor correctly appointed – but at the instructions of the Military.
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.
So, despite the following facts:
That I do not recognize the anti-protest law that the people have brought down as promptly as they brought down the monument to the military’s massacres –
That the legitimacy of the current regime collapsed with the first drop of blood shed in front of the Republican Guard Club –
That any possibility of saving this legitimacy vanished when the ruling four (Sisi, Beblawi, Ibrahim and Mansour) committed war crimes during the break-up of the Rab’a sit-in –
That the Public Prosecutor’s Office displayed crass subservience when it provided legal cover for the widest campaign of indiscriminate administrative detention in our modern history, locking up young women, injured people, old people and children, and holding in evidence against them balloons and Tshirts –
That the clear corruption in the judiciary is to be seen in the overharsh sentences against students whose crime was their anger at the murder of their comrades, set against light sentences and acquittals for the uniformed murderers of those same young people-
Despite all this, I have decided to do what I’ve always done and hand myself in to the Public Prosecutor.
I do not deny the charge – even though I cannot claim the honour of bringing the people into the street to challenge the attempts to legitimize the return of the Mubarak state.
And so that I don’t allow their rabid dogs any excuse at all, 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.
“The protest’s people’s voices heard – needs no permit from the guard!”
Alaa Abd El Fattah
Cairo 27 November 2013