Alaa Abd El-Fattah
Alaa Abd El-Fattah
علاء أحمد سيف عبد الفتاح
18 November 1981
|Parent(s)||Ahmed Seif and Laila Soueif|
|Relatives||Mona Seif and Sanaa Seif (sisters)|
Ahdaf Soueif (aunt)
Alaa Abd El-Fattah (Egyptian Arabic: علاء أحمد سيف عبد الفتاح, IPA: [ʕæˈlæːʔ ˈæħmæd ˈseːf ʕæbdelfatˈtæːħ]; born 18 November 1981), also presented in English as Alaa Abdel Fattah, is an Egyptian blogger, software developer and a political activist. He has been active in developing Arabic-language versions of important software and platforms. He was imprisoned in Egypt for allegedly organising a political protest without requesting authorization, though he was released on bail on 23 March 2014. He was rearrested and ordered released on bail again on 15 September 2014, subsequently sentenced to a month of jail in absentia, and finally received a five years sentence in February 2015, which he was released from in late March 2019 (though he is still subject to parole and has to visit a police station for 12 hours, from evening until morning).
Alaa grew up in a family of activists and activism was a constant topic of discussion in his childhood. His father, Ahmed Seif El-Islam Hamad, a human rights attorney who had been arrested in 1983 by State Security Investigations Service officers and tortured and imprisoned for five years, is one of the founders of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center. His mother Laila Soueif, the sister of the novelist and political commentator Ahdaf Soueif, is a professor of mathematics at Cairo University and a political activist. His parents' activism dates to the days of Anwar Sadat. During a demonstration in 2005 his mother, along with other women, were attacked by Mubarak supporters; Alaa was said to have protected her. One of his sisters is Mona Seif, a founding member of the 'No Military Trials for Civilians', a group raising awareness for the civilian detainees summoned by military prosecutors and investigating torture allegations involving military police. His other sister Sanaa Seif is a teenage student that co-founded a newspaper about the Arab spring called 'Gornal'.
Political activism and arrests
Alaa Abdel Fattah is known for co-founding along with his wife Manal Hassan, daughter of activist Bahi El-Din Hassan, the Egyptian blog aggregator Manalaa and Omraneya, the first Arab blog aggregators that did not restrict inclusion based on the content of the blog. In 2005 the Manalaa blog won the Special Reporters Without Borders Award in Deutsche Welle's Best of Blogs competition. He has supported initiatives that promote citizen journalism on social media and has more than 600,000 people following his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Alaa Abdel Fattah has been questioned, arrested and detained on several occasions. He was arrested on 7 May 2006 when demonstrating for independent judiciary and released on 20 June 2006. On 30 October 2011 he was arrested for inciting violence at the 9 October Maspero clashes and released on 25 December 2011. On 26 March 2013 he was arrested for inciting aggression during a protest outside Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters, known as the Mokattam Clashes of March 2013 but was later acquitted on all charges. Two days later, on 28 March 2013 he was arrested and charged for torching former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik’s campaign headquarters on 28 May 2012, and received a suspended 1-year jail term. On 28 November 2013 he was arrested for rallying, inciting violence, resisting authorities and violating the Anti-protest Law after a demonstration against military trials for civilians outside Shura Council building on 26 November 2013. He was initially released on 23 March 2014 after 115 days in detention. In June 2014 he was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison and detained again awaiting his retrial, during which time he went on a hunger strike. In his retrial on 15 September 2014 he was released on bail.
May 2006 arrest and reaction
On 7 May 2006, Alaa was arrested during a peaceful protest after he called for an independent judiciary. His arrest, along with that of several other bloggers and activists, spurred solidarity protests by others around the world, some of whom created the blog "Free Alaa" devoted to calling for his release from jail. Alaa was released on 20 June 2006, after spending 45 days in jail. His wife Manal was quoted by The Independent as saying: "There's no going back now, we'll definitely be continuing our activities."
According to Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram Weekly, Abd el-Fattah's name "is in many ways synonymous with Egypt's 25 January Revolution." Alaa took part in nearly every demonstration since the revolution began. He was not in Egypt on 25 January 2011, when the anti-regime protests began and when the Egyptian government shut down the internet in the country. However, he was able to collect information from family and friends by land-line phones and published to the outside world the events occurring in Egypt during the first days of the revolution. A few days later he returned to Egypt and was in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests, on 2 February. While demonstrating there, he participated in defending the square from attacks by security forces and pro-regime assailants, an event known in Egypt as "camel battle."
Alaa continued his participation in the Egyptian revolution, until Mubarak stepped down from presidency. He thereafter settled in Egypt, where he maintained his participation in the demonstrations against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' (SCAF) way of running the country after Mubarak's fall.
October 2011 arrest
On 30 October, Alaa was arrested on charges of inciting violence against the military during the 9 October Maspero demonstrations, during which hundreds of people were injured and 27 died in the worst violence since Mubarak left office. Alaa refused to recognise the legitimacy of his interrogators or answer their questions and was then to be held for 15 days, a period that indefinitely renewable. He was accused of having incited fighting in Maspero, of assaulting soldiers and damaging military property. As in his 2006 imprisonment, his mother spoke out in his support, and initiated a hunger strike in opposition to the court-martialling of civilians on 6 November. His father and sisters also participated in the 2011 protests. At his first hearing, Alaa's father, the human rights attorney Ahmed Seif El-Islam presented the military court with video tapes, one of which contained footage of Armored Personnel Carriers running over protesters and another of state television anchors "inciting violence." He also accused the head of military police of being directly responsible for the violence and accused the Supreme Council of Armed Forces of obstruction of justice for instituting a curfew the night of the attack in order to "hide all the evidence of the army's crimes."
The spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the release of Alaa and all others imprisoned for exercising free speech, while Amnesty International issued a condemnation of his imprisonment and accusing SCAF of involvement in the Maspero clashes. In reaction to his imprisonment, thousands of protesters took part in demonstrations in Cairo and Alexandria demanding Alaa's release. Human rights activists and bloggers outside of Egypt have also called for his release. While incarcerated in the Bab al-Khalq Prison, he wrote a letter to fellow Egyptian activists, claiming that SCAF had "hijacked" the revolution. He also compared his current imprisonment with the jail time he served in 2006, saying "I never expected to repeat the experience of five years ago. After a revolution that deposed the tyrant, I go back to his jails?"
Following protests against Alaa's incarceration, military authorities allowed his case to be handled by a civilian court instead of military tribunal. On 13 December, the court dropped two charges against him, including incitement and illegal assembly. The court extended his detention for another 15 days and maintained the charges of stealing weapons and shooting at soldiers. While Alaa remained in custody, his son Khaled was born, named after Khaled Said, the slain blogger who had become a symbol of the Egyptian revolution.
November 2013 arrest
In November 2013, Alaa was arrested again for allegedly encouraging a demonstration against the new constitution outside the Egyptian Parliament. 20 policemen raided Abd El-Fattah's home, broke the door down, and proceeded to confiscate the family's computers and mobile phones. When Alaa asked to see the arrest warrant, the police physically assaulted him and his wife.
September 2014 prize nomination
In September 2014 he was nominated by European United Left–Nordic Green Left for the Sakharov Prize, along with the Tunisian rapper Weld El 15 and the Moroccan rapper L7a9d. The following month, the nomination was withdrawn after controversy over some 2012 tweets by Abd El-Fattah at the time of Israel's bombing of Gaza. He complained that the tweets had been taken out of context.
February 2015 sentencing
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