Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 July 2019

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah freed after 5 years in prison

Pro-democracy activist was jailed under laws prohibiting unsanctioned protests

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah was released on March 29, 2019 after serving a five-year sentence for taking part in an unauthorised protest. AP Photo
Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah was released on March 29, 2019 after serving a five-year sentence for taking part in an unauthorised protest. AP Photo

A leading Egyptian activist was released from prison on Friday after serving a five-year sentence for inciting and taking part in protests, his family and lawyer said.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah rose to prominence with the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. However he was imprisoned three years later after authorities banned public gatherings and unauthorised demonstrations.

Mr Abdel-Fattah's sisters, Mona and Sanaa Seif, posted on Facebook that "Alaa is out," along with a video of him at home, playing with a dog. His lawyer, Khaled Ali, confirmed the release by posting: "Thanks God, Alaa Abdel-Fattah at home."

Facebook pages set up in support of Mr Abdel-Fattah posted videos of him grinning, hugging and shaking hands with friends as he walked out of a police station in Cairo, with women ululating in the background.

Although out of prison, Mr Abdel-Fattah's sentence stipulates that for the next five years he will be under police surveillance and has to report to a police station every day to sign a log book.

An outspoken dissident, Mr Abdel-Fattah has been detained several times under different governments for lobbying for civil rights on social media and in public. An influential blogger, he hails from a family of political activists, lawyers and writers. His late father was one of Egypt's most tireless rights lawyers, his sisters are also political activists and his aunt is the award-winning novelist Ahdaf Soueif.

But Mr Abdel-Fattah's five-year sentence was his longest prison term. He was convicted for taking part in a demonstration following the military's removal of Egypt's president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.

Within weeks, the government also cracked down on activists who opposed a newly introduced law banning street protests without prior permission from authorities. The new law required participants to ask the interior ministry three days in advance whether they could hold a rally, and set prison terms and high fines for violators.

The demonstration that led to Mr Abdel-Fattah's arrest and sentencing was against trials of civilians before military tribunals, known for their swift and harsh rulings.

Security forces raided his house after the protest but he was not there. He later turned himself in.

"I don't deny the charge," he wrote in a statement released at the time. "It's an honour to hold responsibility for people's rallies in defiance of legalising the return of" the rule of Mr Mubarak.

Updated: March 31, 2019 11:00 AM

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