Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Egypt - Detained blogger’s case adjourned until March

Daily News Egypt
By Sarah Carr
February 3, 2009

CAIRO: The first hearing of a case lodged against the Interior Minister on behalf of a blogger who has been held in detention without charge since November 2008, saw the Administrative Court adjourn the case until March 23, on Tuesday.

The petition demands that Adel’s whereabouts, and the reason for his continued detention, be revealed.

It also calls for LE 1 million in damages to be awarded to Adel for the financial and psychological harm caused by his detention.

On Nov. 20, 2008, 20-year-old IT student and political activist Mohamed Adel was surrounded by a large group of men in plain clothing while he was sitting in a Downtown Cairo café, and bundled into a car.

Rights NGO the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) suggested in a statement issued last year that the police had tapped Adel’s mobile phone and snatched him on his way to a meeting with a foreign journalist.

A formal arrest warrant was issued on Nov. 24 — four days after Adel’s disappearance.

When Adel’s father, Adel Fahmy, went to see his son in Cairo’s Tora Prison on Dec. 8 — after receiving information that his son was being held there — prison authorities told him that “they were not at liberty to give him any information” about Adel and prevented Fahmy from seeing him.

The petition was submitted to the Administrative Court by lawyer Taher Aboul Nasr on behalf of Fahmy in mid-December 2008 before Adel’s whereabouts had been established, and before charges of belonging to a banned organization had been leveled against him and another blogger, Megahed Abdel Salam.

It states that Adel’s continued administrative detention is in violation of both international human rights law and the Egyptian constitution.

“The Interior Ministry’s treatment of the applicant’s son constitutes a violation of his personal freedom with no basis in law. His likely detention in illegal places of detention endangers his life.

The Interior Ministry’s failure to reveal the location of, and reasons for, his detention despite its legal obligation to do so constitutes a negative administrative decision to not fulfill its legal obligations giving the applicant the right to contest this decision,” the petition reads.

“The applicant’s continued attempts at uncovering the fate of his son, the location where he is being detained and the reasons for his detention have been in vain. This raises fears about Adel’s wellbeing and the possibility of him being subjected to physical violence and torture of all kinds...because of the silence of all the Interior Ministry authorities concerning the reasons for, and place of his detention,” it continues.

In assigning legal responsibility for the alleged violation to the Interior Minister and President of the Republic the petition relies on the Egyptian constitution as well as articles 1 and 3 of Police Law no. 109 of 1971.

Article 184 of the constitution states that the police is in the service of the people and is duty bound to implement the law.

The Police Law in its first article states that the President heads the police service and that police duties are carried out under the Interior Minister's executive authority.

Article 3 meanwhile states that it is the duty of the police to protect people's lives, amongst other duties.

Adel, a member of the Kefaya Movement for Change, began blogging in 2005 under the name 'Mait' and has also been an editor of ikhwanweb, the English-language website of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Free Mait website says that Adel was previously detained during a demonstration by security forces who held him along with the late Abdel Wahab Messeiry (then coordinator of Kefaya) and journalist Mohamed Abdel Quddous, and left them in the desert of New Cairo's Fifth District.

The website also says that Adel, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, traveled to Gaza in January 2008 with a relief convoy when the Rafah crossing was breached, and has been active in the campaign for the release of Hamas members imprisoned in Israeli jails.

There has been speculation that Adel and Abdel Salam might have been detained for posting online photographs of themselves holding weapons with Hamas members in Gaza.
In response to this, a group of bloggers have established the fictional 'Bloggers for Terrorism' group and launched the satirical 'Operation General Mait.'

Photographs of bloggers Wael Abbas and Mina Zikry bearing fake weapons and dressed in the style of Al-Qaeda members appear alongside captions such as “Mina Zikry: known Coptic and Muslim Brotherhood blogger and an agent for the German intelligence services” and “Wael Abbas: an agent for Obama, Mossad and Hassan Nasrallah.”

Abbas’s intention was to show that the Egyptian government’s allegations that Adel was being trained by Hamas simply because he posted pictures of some of their members holding machine guns, were baseless.

“This is ridiculous and silly,” Abbas told Daily News Egypt in a telephone interview.

Other bloggers showed solidarity with Adel by posting photos of him struggling against police officers. Asad published a post featuring a bearded, turbaned man carrying a gun and standing in front of pictures of Karl Marx and Lenin, signaling a mixture of diverse political ideologies.
Another member of the “Free Mohammed Adel” campaign who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that one of the special features of this campaign is the political diversity of its supporters.

“This campaign is unique because the people involved in it all espouse diverse political views,” he said. “Some of them didn’t even believe that the [Rafah borders between Gaza and Egypt] should be opened.”

Explaining the campaign, blogger Zikry wrote on his blog, Egyptian Watchman, “We've decided to express solidarity with [Adel] in our own special way...and we'll play them at their own absurd game.

“Today we've decided to commit the same 'crime.' We've decided to hold weapons and be photographed with them."–Additional reporting by Nader Ramadan.