Exclusive: Egyptian Activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah on Prison & Regime’s “War on a Whole Generation”

My in-depth discussion with one of Egypt’s most prominent dissidents, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, speaking in his first extended interview after nearly four months behind bars. Alaa talks about his imprisonment, the wave of repression in Egypt and the state of the revolution:

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Egypt’s Courts Further Repression with Journos on Trial & Mass Death Sentence for Morsi Supporters

I was on Democracy Now! talking about the mass death sentence of 529 defendants as well as the ongoing trial of the Al Jazeera journalists:

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Is being a journalist a crime? Defence grills witnesses at trial of Canadian journalist in Egypt

My piece for the Toronto Star after the third session of the Al Jazeera trial:
The trial of a Canadian journalist and his two colleagues, who have been imprisoned in Egypt for the past 12 weeks on terrorism charges, was adjourned for a third time on Monday with the defence team’s requests for bail again denied by the court.

Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian citizen and the acting bureau chief for Al-Jazeera English, was arrested by Egyptian authorities on Dec. 29, along with colleagues Peter Greste, an Australian correspondent, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer.

The three have been accused of belonging to or aiding a terrorist organization in a case that has sparked worldwide condemnation and accusations of a crackdown on press freedom led by Egypt’s military-backed government.

Monday’s four-hour court session was marked by the defence team grilling government witnesses, including questioning that centred on whether the prosecution was criminalizing basic acts of journalism.

Prosecutors have charged the Al-Jazeera journalists with fabricating news reports and tarnishing Egypt’s reputation abroad.

During Monday’s hearing, defence lawyer Khaled Abu Bakr questioned a member of a state media team that issued a forensic report requested by the prosecution. It concluded the defendants manipulated footage to create “false scenes” that endanger national security.

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Canadian journalist imprisoned in Egypt gets MRI under heavy guard

I got to spend some time with Mohamed Fahmy - a friend and journalist with Al Jazeera who has been jailed since December 29 on terrorism charges - when he was taken to hospital for a scan on his injured shoulder. I filed a piece for the Toronto Star about his condition:
Mohamed Fahmy’s mother couldn’t hold back the tears when she saw the armoured police truck carrying her son enter the hospital compound. “Look at how they treat him,” she sobbed. “Why?”

Half a dozen heavily armed security forces had come to escort Fahmy, a respected journalist who has worked for CNN and the New York Times, from the southern Cairo prison complex where he has been detained for the past 84 days to a public hospital to receive a scan on his shoulder. Fahmy’s family and friends were waiting to greet him as he arrived.

A Canadian-Egyptian citizen and the acting bureau chief for Al-Jazeera English, Fahmy was arrested by Egyptian authorities on Dec. 29, along with colleagues Peter Greste, an Australian correspondent, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer. The three have been accused of belonging to or aiding a terrorist organization in a case that has sparked worldwide condemnation and accusations of a crackdown on press freedom led by Egypt’s military-backed government.

Fahmy emerged from the police truck dressed in prison whites and hugged his mother, younger brother and fiancée. Police officers stood nearby, some sporting flak jackets and assault rifles, their faces hidden behind black balaclavas and helmets.

He had been taken to the Qasr al-Aini hospital for MRI scan of his shoulder, which was broken during his arrest after having been previously fractured. The injury was further aggravated by his being forced to sleep on the floor during his initial detention period, when he was held in solitary confinement in extremely harsh conditions in a maximum-security prison wing for more than a month.

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Canadian journalist, two colleagues deny charges in Cairo court

I attended the opening session of the trial against the imprisoned Al Jazeera English journalists and filed for the Toronto Star:
CAIRO—Imprisoned Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy and two other colleagues working for the news channel Al Jazeera English appeared in court for the first time on Thursday nearly two months after their arrest by Egyptian authorities.

The trial was held at the Institute for Police Trustees inside Tora, a sprawling prison complex in southern Cairo guarded by army tanks. The three journalists stood inside a caged dock in the courtroom wearing white prison outfits and denied the charges against them. They were refused bail and will remain behind bars until the next court session scheduled for March 5.

During a recess in the trial, they managed to communicate with reporters by shouting from the defendants’ cage. Fahmy said they faced “psychologically terrible” conditions in prison and were locked up 23 hours a day with no access to books or newspapers and no way to tell time. “We are strong,” he said.

Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian citizen and the acting bureau chief for Al Jazeera English, was arrested by Egyptian authorities on Dec. 29, along with colleagues Peter Greste, an Australian correspondent and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer.

The three are among 20 defendants accused of belonging to, or aiding and abetting a terrorist organization. Of the 20, only eight were present in the courtroom. The rest are at large and will be tried in absentia.

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A Voice for Democracy Against Egypt’s ‘Fascist Buildup’

I have a profile piece in The Nation on liberal intellectual Amr Hamzawy:
Amr Hamzawy was once the toast of the town among Egypt’s liberal elite.

A prominent political scientist and scholar, he rose to fame following the launch of the 2011 revolution, emerging as the spokesman for the “Committee of Wise Men,” an ad hoc coalition of public figures formed to mediate between protesters and the Mubarak regime.

Hamzawy went on to help found two liberal political parties before winning a seat in Parliament, soundly beating a Muslim Brotherhood candidate in one of the strongest showings in the 2011 elections. His liberal politics often put him at odds with the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups during their time in power. He was a frequent guest on television talk shows and a regular public speaker.

But it was Hamzawy’s outspoken criticism of the army’s overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi last July that set him apart from his liberal counterparts.

Now, three years after the revolution began, Hamzawy finds himself politically isolated. He is vilified by his former colleagues, branded a traitor and a “fifth columnist” in the press and barred from travel after prosecutors charged him last month with insulting the judiciary.

“It’s hard to be with no allies and no friends, but it’s always better to understand where people stand and what they think in order to mind future steps and maybe fashion new alliances,” Hamzawy said in a recent interview in his small office at the American University in Cairo, where he is a professor of public policy.

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The War on Journalists

My first column for Mada Masr focusses on the crackdown on journalists in Egypt:

In Egypt, journalism can now be a form of terrorism. At least that’s what prosecutors are alleging in a case targeting Al Jazeera, with 20 defendants referred to trial on charges of joining or aiding a terrorist group and endangering national security.

Among the principal accusations, the prosecutor’s statement accuses the defendants of manipulating video footage “to produce unreal scenes to suggest abroad that the country is undergoing a civil war that portends the downfall of the state.” The statement goes on to say prosecutors assigned a team of “media experts” from the Egyptian Union for Television and Radio to inspect equipment seized from the hotel where Al Jazeera English was operating. The technical reports show that “the footage was altered and video scenes were modified using software and high-caliber editing equipment.”

So they used Final Cut Pro. They edited. They probably even selected the fiercest footage of clashes for their reports. The nature of the charges would be comical if they weren’t so serious.

The journalists accused in the case are being treated as terrorists – that is to say, inhumanely. Two of the detained Al Jazeera English staff, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, are being held in Al-Akrab, the maximum security wing of Tora prison, alongside jihadis and militants. They have been kept in solitary confinement 24-hours a day in insect-infested cells with no beds, books or sunlight for over four weeks. Following the series of bombings in Cairo on January 24, guards even took away their blankets and food their relatives had provided. After a recent visit with him, Fahmy’s family said his spirit appeared to have been broken. Peter Greste is being held in only slightly better conditions.

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Egypt: Media Crackdown, Growing Militancy and Silencing of Dissent

I had a long interview on Democracy Now about the several different issues in Egypt. It is divided into two videos. The first focuses on the crackdown on the media:

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The second segment focusses on the third anniversary of the revolution, the potential presidential candidacy of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Morsi’s trial, growing militancy and targeting of security forces and more:

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Egypt in Year Three

My piece for The Nation coinciding with the third anniversary of the revolution:
January 25, 2011, was a transformative moment for Egypt. Thousands of protesters flooded the streets to call for the downfall of Hosni Mubarak’s sclerotic regime, confronting the notorious security forces on National Police Day and sparking a mass uprising that reverberated around the world.

This year, January 25 brings with it a feeling of the revolution’s undoing. A crude monument erected by the new military-backed government stands in the center of Tahrir Square—once the epicenter of autonomous mass mobilization, now a space controlled by the state and its security forces. Three protesters this week were sentenced to two years in prison for defacing the structure. The ruling barely registered in the news.

Since the military ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi last July, followed by the brutal crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, the security establishment has emerged re-empowered, reinvigorated and out for revenge, cracking down on its opponents with unprecedented severity. Much of Egypt is awash in conformist state worship, fueled by the shrill narrative of a war on terror and the age-old autocratic logic that trades rights for the promise of security.

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Harsh prison conditions taking toll on Canadian held in Egypt

Another piece for the Toronto Star on the imprisoned Al Jazeera English journalist Mohammed Fahmy:

A Canadian journalist detained in Egypt since Dec. 29 is suffering the effects of extremely harsh prison conditions, his family says.

Mohamed Fahmy, a 40-year-old Canadian-Egyptian citizen, has been kept in solitary confinement for nearly three weeks. He is being held in a dark, insect-infested cell with no sunlight or bed, and is only allowed out for interrogation.

“The first time he saw me he didn’t recognize me for the first few seconds,” says a close family member who visited with him. “He didn’t say anything.”

Fahmy, who is being held in a maximum-security prison known as “The Scorpion,” was arrested along with two colleagues, Peter Greste, an award-winning Australian correspondent, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer. Greste has been held in slightly more favourable conditions.

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