CAIRO: An investigations judge released Sunday prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah pending investigation into involvement in the Oct. 9 Maspero violence.
The decision, hailed by rights activists and politicians, follows an earlier order by the State Security Emergency Court to release 76 defendants pending investigations into their involvement in the storming of the Israeli Embassy last September.
Abdel Fattah was detained by military prosecution with charges of stealing weapons and planning for a terrorist plot along with 29 others in connection with Maspero violence, but was later referred to state security prosecution as he rejected interrogation by the military prosecution.
The army’s violent crackdown on a mostly Coptic protest on Oct. 9 left 27 dead.
Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud decided then to refer the case to an investigations judge who on Dec. 14 released 27 defendants pending investigations.
Most of those arrested in connection with the Israeli embassy case were arrested randomly one day after the events on Sept. 9-10. They were referred to the state security prosecution with charges of vandalizing public property, attacking public officers in duty, and burning the Giza Security Directorate.
The investigations judge also released two women arrested from their homes Saturday night on charges of funding Tahrir protesters and arming them with Molotov cocktails.
Hala El-Shoury and Nevine Mohy El-Din’s cars were seen, according to a complaint filed a lawyer called Mohammed Abdel Razek, near Tahrir Square during the deadly clashes inside Mohamed Mahmoud Street.
According to the complaint, two individuals identified as "foreigners" were seen inside El-Shoury’s car giving money to one individual moving out of Tahrir Square towards Qasr El-Nil Bridge.
Other individuals were allegedly seen inside Mohy El-Din’s car distributing Molotovs to protesters.
The two women said they never went to the square whether during the uprising in January or during the clashes in November.
"Being in Tahrir is an honor I cannot claim," El-Shoury told the prosecution, according to her lawyer Ramy Ghanem who confirmed to Daily News Egypt that the investigations judge could not find any evidence that they were present in Tahrir Square in the first place.
"These two ladies have no relationship what so ever with any activists or anyone involved in politics," Ghanem said, adding that El-Shoury’s son goes to the Jesuit School in El-Daher district near Tahrir Square, while Mohy El-Din’s sister lives in Abdeen in Downtown, Cairo.
"We believe that the two cars were near Tahrir Square and the cars’ registration numbers were randomly picked to fabricate a case and cause some noise regarding the events in Tahrir," Ghanem added.
Releasing Abdel Fattah and those arrested in September gave lawyers and activists hope that blogger Maikel Nabil, currently serving a two-year prison sentence in military prison with charges of insult the military institution, could be released too.
Nabil wrote in March a blog post titled "The army and the people are not one hand", in which he documented violations by army police against Tahrir protesters and narrated what he called the army’s conspiracy to ruin the revolution.
"Words and opinions still remain to be more powerful than the power of live bullets," Nabil’s lawyer Negad El-Borai said in a press conference Sunday.
Nabil was sentenced to three years in prison and in August he started a hunger strike against referring him to a military tribunal.
His lawyers appealed the prison sentence that was lowered on Dec. 14 to two years.
"Maikel is on the 125th day of his hunger strike. A week ago he stopped drinking water and milk, and stopped taking his medications," Mark Nabil, Maikel’s brother, said in the press conference.
"El-Marg Prison administration got him out of the prison’s hospital and put him in solitary confinement in a very small prison cell that he cannot get out of," Mark added.
El-Borai said that there is no consideration for the humanitarian aspect of the case, citing Maikel Nabil’s father attempts to release him by issuing an apology for the military council.
Member of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) Major General Mokhtar El-Molla criticized in an interview with eight foreign journalists the media’s focus on the cases of detained bloggers like Abdel Fattah and Nabil.
"No one has been brought in front of court based on their opinion or activity on Facebook, Twitter or any other media," The Guardian quoted El-Molla as saying.
"The media has ignored the [charges of] crimes against [Abd El Fattah] and concentrated instead on him being a blogger and activist," added El-Molla. "Maikel Nabil and Abdel Fattah are Egyptians and we are very keen to protect all Egyptians. But we are talking about one citizen out of 85 million Egyptians."
Lawyer Emad Mubarak said during the presser that ideas that contradict the established social norms are the ones that should be protected the most if Egyptians are keen to move towards real democracy.
"Back in March, Maikel’s ideas were shocking to the society. Now they proved to be true, that’s why we need to protect them," Mubarak said.
"There should not be any kind of guardianship imposed on the mindsets of the Egyptian people, no matter what this kind of guardianship is. Let the people be the guardians of their own minds," he said.
Executive Director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) lawyer Gamal Eid recounted the crackdown against media and freedom of expression since February.
"We expected [a bit of] confusion in the political performance by SCAF since military institutions are undemocratic by nature, but the crackdown on free speech definitely betray ill intentions," Eid said.
"SCAF should have given more space to free media and free speech as a sign of goodwill. Enabling media to criticize SCAF will help them perform better," he said, adding that such continuous crackdown shows a real will to reproduce the old oppressive regime.
Lawyer Mohamed El-Ansary said that laws regulating free speech in Egypt are part of the problem.
"Our constitution says all freedoms are protected according to the law, and here is the main problem. According to the law, ‘insulting’ the military institution is criminalized, and that is why Maikel was imprisoned," El-Ansary said.
El-Ansary used South Africa’s constitution as an example of how freedoms are protected. "The constitution states only hate speech and inciting violence as cases where speech could be criminalized," he explained.