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Egyptian mother on hunger strike to free blogger son from prison

November 9, 2011 |  7:35 am

Alaa Abdel Fattah and his wife Manal Hassan

REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- The mother of a prominent Egyptian blogger has gone on a hunger strike until her son is released from jail after his arrest on what human rights groups call trumped-up charges to silence critics of the nation’s ruling military council.

Laila Soueif, an activist and mathematics professor at Cairo University, told the media she will not eat until her son, Alaa Abdel Fattah, is freed from military custody. The case has put further pressure on the generals who have run Egypt since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Abdel Fattah was detained on accusations he incited sectarian violence last month during a protest by Coptic Christians. Armed thugs and military police attacked the demonstrators, killing 24 Christians amid growing religious tensions. Abdel Fattah refused to be questioned by military prosecutors, saying the army, not him, was responsible for the deaths.

"I reject the military trial of my son or any other civilian because I remember the comic military trials of members of Muslim Brotherhood before the Jan. 25 revolution,” Soueif was quoted as saying Wednesday by Ahram online. “We rejected those military trials, so how can we accept them now?”

She added that she also opposed the military’s investigation into the Coptic protests “not only because army units are accused of killing unarmed civilians, but because the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which controls the military prosecution, has already declared its biased stand on the clashes."

Soueif and Abdel Fattah come from a family of dissidents and activists. They played key roles in the uprising that led to Mubarak’s ouster. In 2006, Abdel Fattah was released from prison after 45 days when Soueif appeared at the police station and threatened to stage a large rally.

The military council has for months been at odds with activists and bloggers, first trying to co-opt them and then putting them and thousands of other civilians on trial before tribunals. Human rights advocates have blamed the military for repeated civil rights violations and for delaying handing over the country to democratic rule.

Parliamentary elections begin Nov. 28, but a new constitution has yet to be written and a president is not likely to be elected until 2013. There have been growing indications that the military is attempting to stay in power behind the scenes for years to come.

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-- Jeffrey Fleishman

Photo: Alaa Abdel Fattah, left, and his wife, Manal Hassan, in an undated photo in Cairo. Credit: Nasser Nasser / Associated Press

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