Egyptian blogger, Alaa Abd El Fattah, was sentenced to five years in prison for protesting against the military-backed Egyptian government. Abd El Fattah was accompanied by 20 other defendants, all of whom were sentenced three years for protesting and other crimes. Four defendants were sentenced to 15 years in absentia.
Blogger Abd El Fattah, 33, was an instrumental voice in the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak. He’s been arrested and jailed numerous times under the two regimes since Mubarak’s overthrow, his most recent for taking part in a November 2013 protest against military trials of civilians. He was also fined $13,000.
According to The New York Times, Fattah and several other defendants had been convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison in June 2014, but a re-trial was ordered. The blogger’s sentence of five years is thought to be more substantial than the other defendants, due to his alleged leadership role in organizing the protest.
The Guardian reports that the trial was based on a demonstration held on November 26, 2013. Protesters had gathered across the street of Egypt’s upper parliament house in Cairo, demanding that the constitution committee ban military trials for civilians. Two days later, police raided Abd El Fattah’s house and assaulted both he and his wife.
“It’s not unexpected, but it still takes your breath away. It’s not an issue of flaw,” said Abd El Fattah’s aunt, Ahdaf Soueif, as she left the courtroom.
“It’s an issue of inventing it as they go along. What is surprising is why they even bother with any kind of skeletal resemblance to proper process.”
Democracy Now! interviewed Ahdaf Soueif after his release from custody in 2014 after spending 115 days in jail, stemming from his 2013 arrest. He was released on bail pending the conclusion of the trial. At the time, the blogger said he expected to be convicted and to be sent back to prison.
In 2011, bloggers were at the forefront of the uprising to oust Mubarak. Abd El Fattah and leading activists continued to press the government for reforms after the revolution. Fearing a similar uprising, the Egyptian government issued a law that criminalized unsanctioned street protests in 2013. Following President Mohamed Morsi’s removal from power by the military in July of that year, the crack-down on dissent was stepped-up.
Other bloggers have faced harsh sentences in recent weeks. Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 50 lashes for insulting Islam, the Inquisitr reported in January. In addition, he was fined $250,000 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.