Egypt court orders release of protest leader

Agence France-Presse

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Released on bail are leading leftwing leader Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others accused of taking part in a violent protest last November

RELEASED. Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. File photo by Filippo Monteforte/AFP

CAIRO, Egypt – An Egyptian court released on bail a leading leftwing activist on trial for joining an unsanctioned and violent protest Sunday, March 23, as the army-installed regime seeks to quell political unrest.

Alaa Abdel Fattah 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 of the activist, one of the leaders of the 2011 uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, opened on Sunday as another court resumed the trial of Mubarak’s deposed Islamist successor Mohamed Morsi.

The interim government has arrested thousands of people, mostly Islamists, following Morsi’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 authoritarianism of the Mubarak era.

The interim government has arrested thousands of people, mostly Islamists, since Morsi’s overthrow.
Police have also arrested secular dissidents and several journalists.

“They want to silence opposition – this is why they are targeting the revolutionary youth,” Mamduh Gamal, one of the defendants already out on bail, told AFP before the trial began.

Abdel Fattah and his co-defendants were arrested after violating a recently enacted law banning all but police-authorized 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 on Sunday when the presiding judge ordered the release of Fattah and co-defendant Ahmad Abdelrahman on bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (around $1,400).

The pair were freed on Sunday evening after bail was posted, defence lawyer Mahmud Bilal told AFP.

Charges denied

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.

Elsewhere in the capital, Morsi was ushered into a soundproof dock for the resumption of his trial on charges of involvement in the killing of opposition protesters during his year in power.

The prosecution showed the court footage of Islamist activists tearing down tents set up by the opposition outside Morsi’s palace in December 2012.

At least 7 people were killed in clashes outside the palace, after protests against a presidential decree granting Morsi extra-judicial powers.

The court adjourned the trial to April 5.

Morsi is also on trial in two other cases, on charges of colluding with militants to carry out attacks in Egypt and involvement in prison breaks during the anti-Mubarak uprising.

The Islamist’s presidency quickly alienated many Egyptians, who accused him of power grabbing and mismanaging the economy.

Millions took to the streets demanding his resignation before he was toppled by the military.

Some of the activists who opposed Morsi, including Abdel Fattah, have since turned on the government, accusing it of reviving authoritarian practices from the Mubarak era.

More than 1,400 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in street clashes since Morsi’s overthrow, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Thousands have been imprisoned, including much of the leadership of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who overthrew Morsi, is expected to resign this week and contest an upcoming presidential election that he is expected to win.

Sisi is riding a wave of nationalist fervour and support for a firm leader seen to be able to restore security and manage the floundering economy. –

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