Prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah gave his first interview to the American independent broadcast Democracy Now last Sunday, after 115 days of detention.
Abdel Fattah described his arrest in November and how it has negatively affected his personal life. He said he was convinced that “it is quite likely” that he will be convicted and sent back to jail, especially since he has already been handed a suspended sentence in another case, in which he was accused of setting fire to the headquarters of 2012 presidential hopeful Ahmed Shafiq.
Abdel Fattah mentioned that security forces had assaulted him and his wife before blindfolding him and taking him to an undisclosed location.
Abdel Fattah later stated that he was being held at the Cairo Security Directorate, where he spent the night on the floor with his hands tied behind his back, eyes blindfolded with a “very dirty rag” that he said resulted in an eye infection; he added that the back of his head was bleeding after being assaulted with the butts of the guards’ weapons.
“They [the prosecution] are supposed to be independent, and it is very important to set boundaries between them and the police,” said Abdel Fattah, who criticised the prosecution’s conducting of trials inside police facilities.
Abdel Fattah mentioned that when Australian Al-Jazeera English correspondent Peter Greste was imprisoned in the same wing, he talked to him and helped him understand the context of the situation in Egypt. He added that they talked about various other topics, including literature and African politics.
During the interview Abdel Fattah shed light on the massive arrests and sentences, asserting that the judiciary is “on a sentencing frenzy”, and that “this is not just about me. It’s almost as if it’s a war on a whole generation.”
When asked if he had taken part in the 30 June demonstrations, Abdel Fattah said: “Very reluctantly so,” adding that he helped stage “a couple of protests” under the label of the Leninist expression “infantile left” with the purpose of opposing the military, police and Muslim Brotherhood.
“But it was such a crazy time,” he said. “The state was basically mobilising people to go out. And so, any protest that you did was joined by tens of thousands who were out there practically because the state told them to be out there.”
Abdel Fattah said that the tradition of activism ran in his family and expressed concern for his son Khalid’s future, citing Egypt’s informality that extended to politics, buildings and resource management.
The activist was reluctant to answer a question regarding the revolution and whether he believed it to be over, instead saying it would “only be judged in the long run”.
On 28 November 2013, Abdel Fattah was arrested from his residence for calling for the No Military Trials for Civilians protest in front of the Shura Council on 26 November. He is being accused of breaking the Protest Law and armed robbery, among other charges. Abdel Fattah is a secular democracy activist who has been dubbed by his fellow activists “the detainee of all eras”, referring to his detentions which have occurred under different regimes.