Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Egyptian activist freed after 4 months in jail

Alaa Abdel-Fattah, center in white, a prominent activist and a leading figure in the 2011 uprising against Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak, is welcomed upon his release Sunday in Cairo.

Associated Press

Alaa Abdel-Fattah, center in white, a prominent activist and a leading figure in the 2011 uprising against Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak, is welcomed upon his release Sunday in Cairo.

CAIRO — In a case closely watched by human rights advocates, a leading figure in Egypt's 2011 revolution was freed on bail by a court Sunday after spending nearly four months in jail.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah was arrested in December, soon after a tough new antiprotest law took effect. A leading figure in the uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak, he faces charges of organizing an illegal demonstration and assaulting police, both of which he denies.

At Sunday's opening hearing of Abdel-Fattah's trial, lawyers called on the judge to release him and the only other defendant imprisoned in the case, Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, saying there was no reason for their continued detention, hinting it amounted to a punishment.

The presiding judge, Mohammed el-Fikki, agreed, ordering their release and setting bail at 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $1,400). The court adjourned the proceedings until April 6.

Abdel-Fattah's arrest, together with those of several other prominent secular activists around the same time, marked the start of an expanded crackdown by the military-led interim government against its critics. The case has also cast a spotlight on Egypt's harsh prison conditions, which Abdel-Fattah and others have detailed in jailhouse letters.

Until late last year, Egyptian authorities had mainly targeted Islamist supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi, but in recent months, activists, journalists, filmmakers and academics have been caught up in the wave of arrests as well. In all, an estimated 16,000 people have been jailed since the interim government took power less than nine months ago.

The imprisoned journalists include three men — two with foreign passports — who work for the broadcaster Al-Jazeera English. Human rights groups, Western governments and media advocacy organizations have denounced as ludicrous the terrorism-related charges against them.

Al-Jazeera, which is owned by Qatar, says it considers the case politically motivated. Egypt is locked in a dispute with Qatar over the wealthy Persian Gulf emirate's support for Morsi, who is also imprisoned and facing a variety of serious charges, including espionage.

The journalists' trial was to resume today.

Egyptian courts are currently swamped with legal cases against thousands of defendants arrested on various charges, from violating the protest law to waging a campaign of violence against security and state institutions.

With so many court cases going on simultaneously, lawyers and rights groups express concern about the fairness of such trials.

Ahmed Seif, Abdel-Fattah's father and lead lawyer, said his release was welcomed as a "start on a long road to try to guarantee justice." He said the deeply polarized political environment makes such prospects unpredictable.

Justice "has become like rolling the dice. It depends on so many other things, not including the rule of law or how clever the defense is," he said.

Information from the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press was used in this report.

Egyptian activist freed after 4 months in jail 03/23/14 [Last modified: Sunday, March 23, 2014 10:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Walmart opens first Pinellas County in-house training academy


    Seminole — It had all the hallmarks of a typical graduation: robe-clad graduates marching in to Pomp and Circumstance, friends and family packed together under a sweltering tent and a lineup of speakers encouraging the graduates to take charge of their future.

    New Walmart Academy graduates are congratulated Thursday morning by associates during a graduation ceremony at the Walmart store, 10237 Bay Pines Boulevard, St. Petersburg. The Walmart location is one of the company's training academies where managers complete a one week retail course. David Shultz and Richard Sheehan, both from St. Petersburg, get high fives from the crowd.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. Four questions with Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith before he helps lead the St. Pete Pride parade

    Human Interest

    A decade ago, Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith was afraid to tell his friends and family he was gay.

    Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith will serve as a grand marshal at the St. Pete Pride parade on Saturday. [City of Largo]
  3. Lawsuit: Florida contractor fakes death to dodge angry homeowners

    Human Interest

    SEMINOLE — For weeks, Glenn Holland, 67, crawled out of bed before the sun rose to look for a dead man.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  4. What you need to know for Friday, June 23


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Graffiti butts are everywhere in downtown St. Pete. What's going on? [CHRISTOPHER SPATA | Times]
  5. Owners to level Port Richey flea market but may rebuild

    Public Safety

    PORT RICHEY — The owners of the recently shuttered USA Flea Market have agreed to demolish all structures on the property, leaving open the possibility of rebuilding the weekend shopping attraction, according to Pasco County officials.

    Pasco County officials shut down the USA Flea Market after it received hundreds of citations for health and code violations.