HRW calls for release of Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah

Human Rights Watch has called on Egypt to release a prominent blogger detained by military prosecutors.

In a statement Tuesday, the New York-based group called the detention of Alaa Abd El Fattah "a blatant effort to target one of the most vocal critics of the military."

Military prosecutors detained Abd El Fattah on 30 October after he refused to answer questions over his alleged role in clashes in Cairo last month that killed 28 people, most of them Christians.

“Instead of identifying which members of the military were driving the military vehicles that crushed 13 Coptic protesters, the military prosecutor is going after the activists who organized the march,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“Abd El Fattah’s detention is a blatant effort to target one of the most vocal critics of the military. The prosecutor’s acts further entrench military impunity by failing to build public confidence that there will be a transparent investigation of those responsible for the deaths.”

The military trial and jailing of blogger Abd El Fattah and a hunger strike by his mother have gained wide publicity at home and abroad.

Last week, Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the on Egyptian authorities to release him and others imprisoned for exercising free speech.

He has not been formally charged, though a military court has accused him of stealing a military weapon, deliberately destroying military property and attacking security forces.

Some 12,000 Egyptians have faced military trials since a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February. Critics charge the military regime of carrying on many of Mubarak's practices.

“The military is relying on Mubarak’s old playbook, charging activists with absurdly vague offenses such as ‘illegally demonstrating,’” Whitson said. “These laws have no place in an Egypt that respects the rights of its citizens to organize, assemble, and protest.”

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