Egyptian court frees prominent leftwing activist on bail

March 24, 2014 - 7:11:29 am
Foreign journalists and relatives of activists walk near an army tank positioned outside Cairo’s Tora prison, where the trial of activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others is taking place.

CAIRO: An Egyptian court released a leading leftwing activist on trial for joining an unsanctioned and violent protest on bail yesterday, as the army-installed regime seeks to quell political unrest.

Alaa Abdel Fattah (pictured), and 24 others are accused of taking part in a violent protest last November outside the senate, where a panel drafted a new constitution giving the army broader powers. The trial for the activist, one of the leaders of the 2011 uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, opened yesterday as another court resumed the trial of Mubarak’s deposed Islamist successor Mohamed Mursi.

The interim government has arrested thousands of people, mostly Islamists, following Mursi’s overthrow by the military in July.

The crackdown on the opposition amid often violent protests by Islamists is the harshest in decades, prompting fears of a return to the decades-long authoritarianism the revolutionaries who toppled Mubarak had hoped to end. The interim government has arrested thousands of people, mostly Islamists, since Mursi’s overthrow.

Police have also arrested secular dissidents and several journalists. “They want to silent opposition — this is why they are targeting the revolutionary youth,” Mamduh Gamal, one of the defendants already out on bail, said before the trial began.

Abdel Fattah and his co-defendants were arrested after violating a recently enacted law banning all but police-authorised demonstrations. Three leading anti-Mubarak protest leaders have already been sentenced to three years in prison for violating the law.

Cheers erupted in the courtroom yesterday when the presiding judge ordered the release of Fattah and the co-defendant still in custody on bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (around $1,400).

His father and lawyer Ahmed Seif said he should be freed today, once bail has been posted. At the hearing, the defendants, now all freed on bail, denied the charges against them from a caged dock. Abdel Fattah joked with journalists during a court recess and flashed victory signs.

The trial was adjourned to April 6.AFP

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