Abdel Fattah faces charges of inciting violence during the Maspero clashes between army forces and Coptic protesters.
On Oct. 30 he refused to be interrogated by the military prosecution because he is a civilian and since he believes that the military establishment is party to the crime they’re probing and hence should not be investigating the Maspero incidents in the first place.
Abdel Fattah's mother, university professor Laila Soueif, also a prominent activist and member of March 9 Movement for Universities' Independence, is in the second day of an open-ended hunger strike until her son is released to draw attention to her his case and that of 12,000 civilians who have been tried in military courts since a popular revolt toppled the Mubarak regime in February.
"I decided to go on hunger strike after I realized fully that the detention decision is a punishment for my son for his political activities, which is the same attitude of state security forces during the Mubarak era," Soueif said in a statement she released and published through the No to Military Trials for Civilians campaign.
"I refuse military trials for civilians and refuse the fact that the military prosecution is investigating the Maspero events not only because of the army's involvement, but also because the ruling military council declared its biased stance, deciding beforehand that the army is innocent of any crime," she added.
On Tuesday she released a statement:
“If Alaa is accused of stealing a weapon belonging to the Armed Forces, how have they not sent anyone to his house for a routine search for weapons?” Soueif asked. In her statement, Soueif insists that the campaign for her son’s release is part of a wider campaign to end military trials for civilians.
“I refuse that my son, or any other civilian, be tried by the military, because I have seen its real-life consequences,” she said.
Soueif wrote Saturday an open letter to the head of military judiciary Adel El-Morsy in which she questioned the trumped-up charges against her son, which include accusations of stealing army weapons, vandalizing army property and attacking army personnel.
"Does the head of the military judiciary really believe these accusations?" Soueif said questioning the seriousness of the charges and the way her son was summoned for questioning by the prosecution.
“If the prosecution believed that Alaa had stolen army weapons, then wouldn’t the military police have at least searched his home to locate the alleged stolen weapons?” Soueif asked, adding that her son was served with a summons to the military prosecution two weeks after the incident, and simply asked to come in a week later because he was abroad on the initial interrogation date.
The activist has been giving his family letters to post on his blog manalaa.net. In his latest contribution, he urged activists and youth to fill his place in the various initiatives he is involved in, including supporting revolutionary youth in elections, an initiative to compile Egyptians’ aspirations for the new constitution, and setting up a public-owned TV station, among others.
“The best way to express solidarity with a political prisoner is to prove that he’s not important in the first place, and that there are millions who are better and more valuable than him,” he wrote.
Abdel Fattah is considered one of Egypt’s pioneer bloggers, along with his wife, Manal Hussein. Since 2004, both have been publishing their political opinions in well-known blog www.manalaa.net.
Originally, as a software developer and activist, Abdel Fattah has supported initiatives that promote social media, freedom of expression and political activism. In 2005, Alaa and Manal won the Special Reporters without Borders Award in Deutsche Welle's Best Blogs competition.
It is not the first time Abdel Fattah finds himself facing allegations by the state. In May 2006, he was arrested while participating in a peaceful protest in solidarity with Egypt’s free judiciary movement. His arrest caused an international uproar, as it was seen as an attempt to crack down on blogging activity in Egypt by targeting one of its most influential bloggers.
Abdel Fattah was eventually released in June 2006 after 45 days in detention, during which an international campaign was launched on blogs and on Twitter with the hashtag “#FreeAlaa” – a hashtag that again found its way to many Twitter accounts following news of his latest detention.
Born in 1981, Abdel Fattah was brought up in a family of leftists with a long history of political activism. His father, Ahmed Seif El-Islam Hamed, is a prominent lawyer and human rights activist who used to run the Cairo-based Hisham Mubarak Law Centre. Ahmed Seif El-Islam was arrested in the 1980s and imprisoned for five years for his political activity.
Abdel Fattah’s mother, Laila Soueif, is a professor of mathematics at Cairo University, while his aunt is Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian novelist of international renown. Alaa’s sister, Mona Seif, meanwhile, is one of the founders of the “No to military trials for civilians” campaign.
Abdel Fattah’s wife, Manal, also comes from a family with a long activist pedigree. Manal’s father is Bahi El-Din Hassan, a founder of Egypt’s contemporary human rights movement and current head of the Cairo Centre for Human Rights Studies.
Abdel Fattah and Manal moved to South Africa in 2008, where they lived until January of this year, when they took the first flight to Cairo to join Tahrir Square protesters as the revolution erupted. His first day in the square coincided with what has become known as the “Battle of the Camel,” when pro-government thugs attacked demonstrators, leaving dozens dead.
"Alaa fought bravely to defend the square and was never worried that he might lose his life," said Wael Khalil, prominent blogger and leftist political activist imprisoned with Abdel Fattah in 2006.
Following Mubarak’s ouster and concomitant promises of democratic transition, the couple decided to return to Egypt on a permanent basis. Through their twitter accounts, “@alaa” and “@manal,” the couple announced their intention to have a baby. The baby, they noted, would be named Khaled after Khaled Said, the young man from Alexandria beaten to death by police last year who became a posthumous icon of Egypt’s revolution.
The last thing Abdel Fattah wrote publicly, in independent daily Al-Shorouk, was his eyewitness account of the Maspero clashes and the two days spent at a Coptic hospital morgue battling for autopsy reports. He also spent this time mourning the death of Mina Daniel, the Coptic activist who was run over by military police during the clashes.
"When will the SCAF understand that many revolutionaries are afraid of their tender loving mothers more than they fear death or torture," Abdel Fattah wrote in Al-Shorouk.