Alaa Abdel-Fattah and Ahmed Abdel-Rahman

Motley’s Luke Luby examines the activities of Alaa Abdel-Fattah and Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, two demonstrators charged with holding an illegal protest last year, upon reports that they have been released on bail.

Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman, left-wing organisers of the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak have been freed on bail, according to reports published on Sunday March 22.

The pair, who were arrested alongside 23 others, were detained in prison longer than the rest of those arrested last November for taking part in an unauthorised protest against military trials for civilians. Mr Abdel Fattah was also charged with assaulting security agents and stealing a police officer’s two-way radio.

The release of Mr Abdel Fattah, who is nephew of Egyptian author and dissident Ahdaf Soueif, has been welcomed by many who saw his detention as a source of controversy, seeing it as a human rights violation.

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The pair, who were arrested alongside 23 others, were detained in prison longer than the rest of those arrested last November for taking part in an unauthorised protest against military trials for civilians.

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It was one of the first protests dispersed by force in accordance with a controversial new protest law issued in the same month which criminalises unauthorised public demonstrations. The No to Military Trials campaign group claimed responsibility for organising the protest, but Abdel-Fattah was charged with being the protest organiser.

In a prison letter which Mr Abdel Fattah has made public, he describes the arrests of himself and numerous other protesters as targeting an entire generation of young dissidents. Mr Abdel Fattah and the rest of the protesters involved with the uprising are merely calling for bread, freedom and dignity. His trial has been adjourned until April 6.

To date the arrests of Mr Abdel Fattah and the rest of the protestors has been seen as part of a sweeping clampdown by authorities on dissidents, widening an already ongoing crackdown on Islamist supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi to include the secular opposition.

Separately, Cairo criminal court adjourned the trial of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and over a dozen Muslim Brotherhood figures for calling on supporters to kill protestors during a rally at the presidential palace in December 2012.

On Saturday March 21, the Minya criminal court deferred until today the trial of Brotherhood supreme guide Mohamed Badie and 545 other movement members accused of assault, attacking a police station and damaging public and private property following the forcible dispersal in Cairo last August of Brotherhood encampments protesting against Mr Morsi’s removal. An estimated 900 to 1,400 people, the majority of whom were Brotherhood backers, lost their lives in the operation. Only 123 of the defendants were present in the court, the rest have been freed, released on bail or are fugitives from the law.

Egyptian courts are currently swamped with legal cases against thousands of defendants arrested in the past eight months on various charges, from violating the protest law to waging a campaign of violence against security and state institutions. Morsi and leading members of his Muslim Brotherhood are also facing more serious charges such as conspiring with foreign groups to destabilise Egypt and inciting murder.