By Samer al-Atrush
CAIRO — Egypt’s ruling military jailed a veteran dissident and blogger on Sunday on charges of inciting deadly clashes between soldiers and Christians this month, his sister and a fellow activist said.
Alaa Abdel Fatah, who was jailed for his activism under ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s government in 2006, was remanded in custody for 15 days, said his sister Mona Seif, who is also a leading opponent of military trials.
The prosecutor may choose to formally refer him to a military court or release him.
Abdel Fatah’s detention came days after US President Barack Obama called on Egypt’s military to lift a state of emergency and end military trials for civilians.
Bahaa Saber, another activist who faces the same charges but was not detained, said he and Abdel Fatah were charged with inciting attacks against soldiers and participating in the October 9 clashes in Cairo.
Coptic Christians were protesting an attack on a church when clashes broke out with soldiers outside the state television’s building. Twenty-five people died in the violence, most of them Copts.
Witnesses said soldiers fired upon protesters and ran them over with armoured cars, accusations the military has denied. The military said a number of its soldiers died in the clashes but refused to give a toll.
“We are charged with inciting attacks against soldiers and participating in them,” said Saber.
Saber said he and Abdel attended the military prosecutor’s summons on Sunday “convinced that the military has no right to intervene in judicial matters,” and they refused to answer the prosecutor’s questions.
“It was humiliating and unacceptable,” he said. “This is an unjust escalation by the military. I will not be silenced nor intimidated, and I don’t think people will be silent either.”
The military has tried thousands of civilians since it took charge of the country after Mubarak’s ouster on February 11, in trials rights groups say are unfair and result in harsh sentences.
Saber said the pair’s lawyers were not allowed to see the military prosecution’s evidence.
Seif said several people, including a journalist and a blogger who opposes the uprising that ousted Mubarak, had filed complaints against her brother.
The blogger, Ahmed Spider, posted on YouTube an interview with Abdel Fatah that he said led to the military prosecutor’s charges.
The video shows Abdel Fatah at a protest saying he wanted to “cut off the military’s hand” and threatening to storm the interior ministry.
Saber questioned the military’s impartiality in investigating the deadly clash, given its role in the incident.
Military spokesman were not immediately available for comment, but top generals have denied that soldiers killed any demonstrators and blamed a vague plot by “enemies of the people.”
The military has ordered the caretaker cabinet it appointed to investigate the violence.
Although it was hailed during the uprising for not siding with Mubarak, the military now faces growing discontent over its trials of civilians and suspicion that it is delaying a transition to civilian rule.
It has lashed back at critics, accusing one youth movement that spearheaded the anti-Mubarak revolt, April 6, of carrying out “foreign” plots.
The country is scheduled to start parliamentary elections on November 28, followed by presidential elections sometime in 2012.
Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved
Photo by Lilian Wagdy (DSC_4799 Uploaded by The Egyptian Liberal) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.