The New Arab & agencies

Egypt top appeals court upholds 5-years prison for activist

Alaa Abdel-Fattah is seen as an iconic figure of the country's pro-democracy movement [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 November, 2017

Abdel-Fattah now has around a year-and-a-half remaining in his sentence, although he also faces another sentencing in December over accusations he insulted the judiciary.
Egypt's highest appeals court on Wednesday upheld a five-year prison sentence for Alaa Abdel-Fattah, an iconic figure of the country's pro-democracy movement convicted for taking part in a peaceful demonstration in 2013.

The decision confirmed a prior verdict by a criminal court that ruled Abdel-Fattah had protested illegally, endangered the public interest, and stolen a police radio. Street protests have been effectively banned in Egypt.

"This sentence is part of the regime's wider plan to close the public sphere," Mohammed Zaree, Egypt office director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), told The New Arab in September.  

"Alaa is very vocal, influential, and well organised. The best thing [President Abdel-Fattah] al-Sisi can do – from his perspective – is to lock him up and so prevent criticism and mobilisation of people."

Sentenced in the 'Shura Council case', Alaa was found guilty of protesting against military trials for civilians outside the the Egyptian parliament's upper house in November 2013, where over 50 people were arrested.

The protest was the first to be forcibly dispersed in accordance with a controversial protest law introduced in the same month, which criminalises unauthorised public demonstrations.

Activists took to social media to decry the decision, the latest in an unprecedented crackdown on dissent under Sisi, a former general who led the military overthrow of his elected but divisive Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi in 2013. 

Thousands have been imprisoned, with some rights advocates putting the number as high as 60,000.

"I'm sorry. Our hearts are with everyone who's been following us and rooting for Alaa and justice," said Abdel-Fattah's aunt, Ahdaf Soueif, a novelist and rights advocate.

An outspoken blogger, Abdel-Fattah has been in and out of prison in the years since the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak. 

A software engineer by profession, he also campaigned against the policies of the military council that ruled Egypt for nearly 17 months following Mubarak's ouster.

He also opposed Morsi as well as Sisi.

Abdel-Fattah now has around a year-and-a-half remaining in his sentence, although he also faces another sentencing in December over accusations he insulted the judiciary.

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