Albier Saber, the political activist arrested for sharing the trailer of the Innocence of Muslims, a film deemed offensive to Islam, on his Facebook account, has started a hunger strike in protest of his detention.
The prosecution is charging Saber, who is a founding member of the National Association for Change, with contempt of religion. He was arrested on Thursday night after a mob surrounded his apartment’s building in Ezbet El-Nakhl and threatened to break in and torch his house.
Saber was not the only, or even the first, person to share the video. Islamist talk show host, Khaled Abdullah played over two minutes of the film’s Arabic dub on 9 September. He was the first to introduce the movie to a Middle Eastern audience on a mass scale.
According to activist Amir Taky, who is part of a campaign aiming to free Saber and raise awareness about his case, Saber’s mother was the one who called the police, only for the police to arrest Saber instead of those threatening him.
“Thugs from Albier’s area surrounded his house and said they would burn it so his mother called the police. The police came and arrested Albier instead and took him to El-Marg police station,” Taky told The Daily News Egypt.
He added that the police also took Saber’s laptop computer, some of his CDs, and his flash memory disk.
Saber’s neighbours reportedly tried to attack him due to beliefs that he is an atheist. According to Taky, the prosecutor interrogating Saber also pressed him for information about his beliefs.
“He asked him about his relationship to his religion and his feelings about God, at which point one of his three lawyers interfered to say these questions are unrelated to the case, which led to the prosecutor kicking the lawyer out,” said Taky.
Saber refused to answer these questions due to his belief that they are irrelevant to his case, Taky added.
A Facebook page attacking Saber accuses him of running another Facebook page called “Egyptian atheists” and posted a YouTube video showing a police officer carrying Saber to the street from his apartment with a large crowd cheering and chanting “God is great.” Taky confirmed the video was authentic.
The same Facebook page posted what it said was an interview with one of Saber’s neighbours who claims to have coordinated the attack and the subsequent arrest. He said the neighbourhood’s locals agreed to secretly meet at Saber’s building.
He added that he was motivated after he saw Saber share the YouTube clip of scenes from the “Innocence of Muslims” movie that sparked large scale protests around the world and led to several deaths, including that of the United States ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.
According to a statement by the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), an officer inside the police station incited the other detainees against Saber, which led to his receiving of a neck injury.
“There was an officer at the station, Lieutenant Mina, who told other prisoners that it was Albier who insulted the prophet [Muhammad] which led to one of them attacking him and cutting him at the neck with a razor blade,” confirmed Taky.
Saber’s mother was forced out of her house after she was threatened with murder and having her house burned down, the AFTE’s statement said. A lawyer from the association is handling Saber’s case. The AFTE could not be reached for comment.
Saber was first taken to the Fifth Settlement police station on Friday before being transferred to the North Cairo police station where he was kept from three pm until midnight. He was sentenced to four days of temporary custody pending investigation.
When asked why the police were targeting Saber in particular, Taky said it was because he opposed the Muslim Brotherhood, which President Mohamed Morsy belongs to. Saber was a founding member of the National Association for Change that was started by Nobel laureate and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei in 2009.
“Albier had written and published an article attacking the Brotherhood only five days ago,” said Taky.
The “Free Albier” campaign, which is organised by Taky, held a press conference in downtown Cairo at seven pm. The campaign members said they would follow the conference by protesting in front of the public prosecutor’s office at the High Court building.