Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah released from prison on bail
One of Egypt’s best-known pro-democracy activists was freed from prison on bail Monday, but faces retrial for violating an anti-protest law.
Alaa Abdel Fattah, wan and worn after a prolonged hunger strike, was welcomed by friends and supporters as he emerged from Cairo’s notorious Tora prison.
Abdel Fattah, a blogger who came to international prominence during the 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak, was sentenced this year to 15 years in prison, one of the toughest sentences to be handed down against those accused of taking part in anti-government demonstrations.
Two other activists were released on bail along with him.
In the 14 months since the toppling of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian authorities have carried out a wide-ranging crackdown on dissenters. Morsi’s backers in the Muslim Brotherhood bore the brunt, but secular activists like Abdel Fattah were swept up as well.
Over the last year, Egypt’s judiciary has been accused by human rights groups of bizarre and unfair court proceedings, including mass death-penalty sentences. Last week, during the latest proceedings against Abdel Fattah, the evidence brought against him included video footage of his wife dancing at a family event.
When the retrial resumes, it will be with a new judge. The jurist presiding over the retrial withdrew from the case, citing disrespect to the court.
Hundreds of activists have been jailed for violating the anti-protest law that went into effect late last year. Under it, nearly all public gatherings must be approved in advance by authorities.
A software developer, Abdel Fattah was among Egypt’s earliest bloggers, winning attention with his criticism of Mubarak’s rule. He hails from a family of activists that include his late father, lawyer Ahmed Seif El-Islam, who died last month. Abdel Fattah was temporarily released to attend the funeral.
Abdel Fattah’s 20-year-old sister, Sanaa, remains in detention in connection with a June demonstration against the anti-protest law.
Hassan is a special correspondent. Staff writer Laura King in Cairo contributed to this report.
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