Charges against Abdel Fatah, activists are politically motivated: Lawyers

Opposition activist Alaa Abdel Fatah received notice on Thursday that he would stand trial along with his sister — activist Mona Seif — and 11 others on charges relating to the burning of former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq’s headquarters in June 2012.

Thursday’s charges are the second in the span of a week against high-profile activists.

Abdel Fatah was summoned by the prosecutor general on Monday along with five other activists to be interrogated on charges of inciting violence at the Muslim Brotherhood’s Moqattam headquarters last week. He was released on Tuesday after it was determined there was not enough evidence against him.

Lawyers argue that, like former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime and the interim military junta, the Muslim Brotherhood is pushing cases against high profile activists in order to send a warning message to opposition forces.

Following the latest charges against Abdel Fatah, Shafiq denounced the Brotherhood’s political use of his 2012 case, stating that he had dropped all charges against the activists.

“I will not be a stick in the hands of the Brotherhood to crack down on Egyptian revolutionaries, and I will not allow the Brotherhood to use my name in order to settle their scores with the youth,” Shafiq tweeted on Thursday.

After lawyers filed charges against activists claiming they were responsible for inciting the Moqattam clashes, the prosecutor general promptly issued arrest warrants and travel bans against Abdel Fatah, Ahmed Douma, Hazem Abdel Azim, Karim al-Shaer and Ahmed Ghoneimy.

Charges were also filed against dozens of other activists, who have yet to be named or served with arrest warrants.

Lawyers say that the prosecutor’s decision violates legal procedure, which requires that activists be summoned for interrogation first before arrest warrants can be issued.

“This is an attempt to use the [Moqattam] events to pin charges on the revolution’s activists,” said lawyer Khaled Ali, who appeared in court with Abdel Fatah on Tuesday.

“They issued an arrest warrant based only on the complaint of a few lawyers, while it should be issued after the prosecution has investigated and found evidence that the suspect is guilty of any charges,” he said.

The implicated activists are not new to such high-profile targeting. Abdel Fatah and Douma were detained under investigation for prolonged periods under both Mubarak and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

 “This is [President Mohamed] Morsy flexing his muscles for the National Salvation Front and satellite television channels,” argued lawyer Ahmed Seif, Abdel Fatah’s father.

Seif believes that the targeting of his son is an attempt to intimidate opposition figures and satellite channels accused of harboring a bias against Morsy’s administration, and to dissuade them from any escalations in criticisms of the Brotherhood.

Already assuming he would be detained pending investigations, Abdel Fatah arrived at the prosecutor’s office in the white suit worn by detainees.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office was surrounded by hundreds of protesters supporting Abdel Fatah and denouncing the government’s extralegal targeting of activists. The protesters accused the Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah —  appointed by Morsy — of taking orders from the Brotherhood.

Expecting the decision to provoke outrage, the Interior Ministry heightened the number of Central Security Forces guarding the prosecutor’s office.

Abdel Fatah tweeted that he was being questioned about messages that tagged his name in Twitter, messages that he did not write and had no input in.

The activist and the prosecutor each had different accounts of what happened in during the interrogation. While Abdel Fatah said that he refused to answer any questions, the prosecution issued a statement claiming that Abdel Fatah denied ownership of both his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The prosecution announced that Abdel Fatah would be released pending a report by the Internet Investigation Authority’s report, which would determine the authenticity of the activist’s social media profiles.

The fact that the prosecution did not hold enough evidence to keep Abdel Fatah in custody proves that the arrest warrant was issued prematurely, his lawyers say.

Lawyer Ahmed Ragheb sees the move as not only an attempt to scare the opposition, but also an attempt to assure the ruling Brotherhood that brought Morsy to power.

“This is a message to the Guidance Bureau that [Morsy] is capable of protecting their interests,” said Ragheb.

Last week’s violent protests were the first to target the Guidance Bureau building, and appear to have elicited a stronger reaction from the president than the deadly clashes at the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace at the end of 2012. The prosecutor general was harshly criticized for his slow response for the December events, for which no one has been held responsible.

Ragheb expects the resolution of the current case to be politically influenced.

“There are two paths that the investigation can take — either it will be resolved politically, or the political rivalry will continue to be played out in the courtroom,” he said.

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