Social Media Resurrects #freeAlaa Hashtag After Egyptian Arrest of Alaa Abd El Fattah

Information on Twitter and Facebook pertaining to the arrest of activist Alaa Abd El Fattah in Egypt on Thursday spurs fear and anger online.

Egyptian activist, Alaa Abd El Fattah was arrested last Thursday in a violent attack at his residence.

On Tuesday, protestors in Egypt were violently dispersed after a new law banning street protests was put into effect. Fifty-one people were arrested, among them Fattah’s sister, Mona Seif, and according to a running press release out of Cairo by Omar Robert Hamilton, they were beaten, tortured and sexually harassed.

The arrest warrant for Fattah was issued later that day accusing him of inciting and organizing the protest. Fattah quckly made a public statement on Facebook saying that he would turn himself in on Saturday, but police raided his home on Thursday.

After the raid, Fattah’s wife took to Twitter to document the events:

She also posted a photo of blood stains attesting to the beating. Police would not tell her where her husband was being taken, though some reports now say he is being held in a Central Security Forces barracks. One such report came from Fattah’s sister, Mona, whose Twitter account has been suspended.

Numerous charges against Fattah include being part of a mob, protesting without notification to authorities, obstructing a road, protesting while carrying weapons, assaulting public officers, thuggery, and robbery.

Buzzfeed reports, “As news of the arrest and alleged social media hacking spread, a fear swept through Twitter and Facebook that other accounts could now be vulnerable.” Expressions of anger and sadness are evident via social media and the hashtag @freeAlaa has been resurrected. The hashtag was used when Fattah was arrested under previous governments.

According to the Hamilton press release:

The persecution of Alaa Abd El Fattah is a recurring theme in Egypt. He was jailed under the Mubarak regime for 45 days and again by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in 2011 – when he returned from giving a keynote speech at a technology conference in San Francisco to turn himself in. He remained in jail for almost two months, missing the birth of his son, Khalid. He also faced trumped up charges designed to intimidate protest under the Morsi government in 2013 along with popular satirist Bassem Youssef.

Egyptian citizens are not backing down easily. Protests continued across the country despite the new law with thousands of people marching through downtown Cairo earlier in the week. Police used tear gas and shotguns to break up a protest at Cairo University, killing at least two students. In Alexandria, 14 young, female supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to 11 years in prison for participating in a political protest.

As Hamilton notes, “even under the new protest law, the violence with which the protests were dispersed was illegal.”