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Blogger Arrested For Inciting A Protest In Egypt


There was an arrest of a high-profile Egyptian activist last night, a well-known blogger. This arrest was part of what has apparently been an expansion in the crackdown by Egypt's military-led regime. Egypt recently issued a new law that broadens the state's powers to stop protests, including by force. We're joined by NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo. Leila, good morning.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So tell us about this blogger who was arrested.

FADEL: His name is Alaa Abdel Fattah and police came into his home in the dead of night, his toddler sleeping nearby when his wife demanded an arrest warrant. They beat them both and took Alaa to jail. An arrest warrant had been issued for him earlier this week, saying that he was behind the organization of protests that led to dozens of other prominent activists being arrested.

GREENE: And so what kind of protests was he accused of encouraging?

FADEL: Well, the protests on Tuesday were a protest against military trials for civilians and against this controversial protest law that allows the state to ban protests and essentially use force. And it was the first test of that law. And what we saw was dozens of people arrested, including women, that were detained, beaten, sexually harassed, and then eventually left in the middle of the desert.

GREENE: Well, so, Leila, what's their condition?

FADEL: Well, now they seem to be OK. They were picked up in the middle of the desert by friends. They are continuing to protest. They're going to try to get their male counterparts out of jail. They're being outspoken about this.

GREENE: So the government is really casting a wide net here, going after a lot of people. There has been a string of arrests.

FADEL: Right. And the day after all of these arrests, we saw 21 women go on trial in Alexandria. Fourteen of them got 11 years in prison just because they were protesting in support of ousted president, Mohamed Morsi. The arrests are as young as 14 and are being held in a juvenile detention center. And yet there isn't as much of an outcry about these Islamist women as about the women secular and leftist that were taken and then left in the desert.

GREENE: We have heard about people being rounded up, supporters of ouster President Morsi but it seems like the government is going after people on all sides of politics now.

FADEL: That's right. I mean, more than 1,000 people have been killed from supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi but now that shift is saying no protest is acceptable. Not if you're secular, not if you're Islamist, not if you're leftist. No protest against us is acceptable.

GREENE: What does this law and how the government is carrying it out say about Egypt right now?

FADEL: Well, it's not good news. Human rights groups say this is really an affront to democracy. How can you be on a path to democracy when you can't have peaceful protests without police beating and arresting them? They're saying that every step that we've seen really in the last five months has shown that repression is really an acceptable thing in Egypt right now.

GREENE: Is there a sense, Leila, this is a temporary thing? That the military-led regime is sort of saying that we still need to keep control of the country? Or is this the kind of law that might just become part of the norm in Egypt now again?

FADEL: You know, it may very well become part of the norm in Egypt. A lot of people here just want some stability and the government says this is the way to get it. So after the huge outcry over these arrests, you saw government officials going on television warning these activists not to get involved with backwardness and terror, saying that if they don't implement this law the street will be lost and maybe the country.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Leila Fadel joining us from Cairo. Thanks, Leila.

FADEL: Thank you.


GREENE: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.