(TheBlaze/AP) A prominent Egyptian blogger handed himself in to authorities on Tuesday, a day after the country’s prosecutor general ordered his arrest along with four others for allegedly instigating violence with comments posted on social media.
The charges stem from clashes between supporters and opponents of the country’s Islamist president last week that left 200 injured.
Activists say the accusations against blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah (also spelled Alaa Abd El-Fattah) may herald a wave of arrests of opposition leaders. They follow closely on an angry televised warning by President Mohammed Morsi that he would soon take exceptional measures in the face of violence.
Abdel-Fattah, wearing a prison jumpsuit to show his readiness to face jail, arrived at the Cairo office of Prosecutor General Talaat Abdullah surrounded by dozens of protesters chanting slogans denouncing Morsi’s and his group, the Muslim Brotherhood.
From inside the prosecutor’s office, the blogger posted messages on Twitter saying most of the accusations were based on comments sent to his account by others, rather than anything he posted himself.
Abdel Fattah said he refused to answer Abdullah’s questions. “In general I refused to answer all the questions because of partiality of the prosecutor general,” he posted. He demanded that an investigative judge take over the case.
The Friday clashes outside the Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters were the worst violence between the Brotherhood and its opponents in three months.
The protest was called in response to earlier violence at the building, in which Brotherhood supporters beat up several activists and attacked reporters. Both sides brought hundreds of supporters to the new demonstration. The two groups fought with knives, fists, stones, sticks, and birdshot. Both sides committed beatings of the other. Police fired tear gas but did not try to separate the two sides.
Brotherhood officials accuse the protesters of attacking its offices and say its members were defending the building. Protesters, in turn, blame Brotherhood members for sparking the violence, saying they tried to encircle the rally from the back.
Brotherhood offices have frequently been ransacked and set on fire during Egypt’s turmoil.
The prosecutor’s office says it is examining statements and video clips posted on activists’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, which allegedly include incitement to burn the offices of the Brotherhood and kill Brotherhood members. A wider inquiry will examine the contents of social networking sites in the run-up to Friday’s clashes.
Abdel-Fattah, like the other wanted activists, were key figures in the 2011 uprising against ousted president Hosni Mubarak. They subsequently led demonstrations against the military generals who took power after Mubarak and, after Morsi’s election, are now protesting what they see as the new president’s dictatorial style of rule.
The opposition accuses Morsi of acting like his predecessor, of not living up to his promises to have an inclusive political process and of acting in the Brotherhood’s interests rather than the Egyptian national interest.
The Brotherhood in turn accuses the opposition of having no grassroots support. It says that the president should be challenged through the ballot box, not street protests.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s interim parliament, the Shura Council, said it is working on drafting a law to regulate protests. The law would give the security authorities the right to deny permission to demonstrations that harm “citizens’ interests,” including by blocking traffic.