Wednesday, June 20, 2018
News Roundup

Egyptian activist freed after 4 months in jail

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.

Comments

Updated: 7 minutes ago

Updated: 10 minutes ago
Couple leased someone else’s home to 12 families at same time, Largo police say

Couple leased someone else’s home to 12 families at same time, Largo police say

LARGO — At least 12 families leased the same Largo home at the same time and lost as much as $4,300 each in a fraud scheme run by a couple who portrayed themselves as owners of the property, Largo police said.Police learned of the scheme Tuesday afte...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Passenger in Bayshore crash that killed mother and toddler pleads not guilty

Passenger in Bayshore crash that killed mother and toddler pleads not guilty

TAMPA — Tristan Herrin, a passenger in the speeding black Mustang that struck and killed a woman and her young daughter last month as they tried to cross Bayshore Boulevard, renewed his not guilty plea Wednesday to a misdemeanor street racing charge....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Driver in fatal Tampa hit-and-run turns himself in

Driver in fatal Tampa hit-and-run turns himself in

TAMPA — The driver who was sought in a fatal hit-and-run on Sunday night has turned himself in.Police say Roger Herelle, 33, told detectives Wednesday he was involved in the crash that killed Sally Ann McClellan Webb, 58.Police had had been seeking t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Five guns taken in 30 reported break-ins of unlocked cars in Clearwater

Five guns taken in 30 reported break-ins of unlocked cars in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Thieves have made off with at least five guns after breaking into unlocked vehicles in recent days, police said Wednesday morning.Over the past three days, a group of people have been breaking into unlocked vehicles across the city. Clea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police investigating body found floating near Davis Islands

Police investigating body found floating near Davis Islands

TAMPA — Police are working to recover a body that was found floating in the water near the Davis Island Sea Basin on Wednesday morning.It is uncertain how the body ended up there, according to police.This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

LAND O’LAKES – A Sarasota developer is proposing to turn a vacant Winn-Dixie store in central Pasco into a Sprouts Farmers Market.Benderson Development filed preliminary plans Monday with Pasco County to redevelop the former Winn-Dixie store at the n...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning will announce their full 2018-19 schedule on Thursday, but the league announced each home opener Wednesday, with Tampa Bay playing host to the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Oct. 6.The Lightning will know their ...
Updated: 2 hours ago