Egypt`s Army extends prominent blogger`s detention

Egypt`s military ordered a prominent blogger held in custody for another 15 days.

Cairo: Egypt`s military ordered a prominent blogger held in custody for another 15 days on Sunday in move likely to galvanise mounting criticism of the country`s ruling generals.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah is among the most prominent of some 12,000 Egyptians who have faced military trials since Egypt`s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took control of the country from President Hosni Mubarak when an 18-day popular uprising pushed him from power in February.

Abdel-Fattah has not been formally charged, though his family says he has been accused of stealing a military weapon, vandalising military property, and violently assaulting security officers.

Abdel-Fattah denies all the allegations. He is being held for refusing to answer questions from military interrogators, who he says should not play a role in trying civilians.

The trials, along with other issues, have caused many uprising activists to lose faith in the armed forces. Many say they run the country no more fairly than Mubarak did and fear they will not hand over power to civilian authorities as promised.

Military prosecutors detained Abdel-Fattah on October 30 after he refused to answer questions over his alleged role in sectarian clashes last month that killed 27 people, most of them Christians.

His family, which includes other prominent activists, has used his case to highlight the issue of military trials. His mother, Laila Soueif, said on Sunday she was on her eighth day of a hunger strike and would hold out until he is freed.

"I`m going to continue with my hunger strike, and I think that the reaction of everybody, including myself, will be anger," said Soueif, 55. "We`ll continue our campaign."

Many view Abdel-Fattah`s detention as an effort to smear activists who helped lead the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak and have become harsh critics of the military council now governing the country.

Last week, the United Nations human rights office called on Egypt`s military rulers to release him and others locked up for practicing free speech.

Spokesman Rupert Colville said his agency is "concerned about what appears to be a diminishing public space for freedom of expression and association" in Egypt.

Also on Sunday, at least one person was killed and several others injured when armed forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at protesters besieging a vital Nile Delta port. They were protesting expansion plans for a local fertilizer factory they say will cause health problems in the area.

Sunday`s crackdown came on the fourth day of unrest in Damietta, about 110 miles (180 kilometres) northeast of Cairo.

General Ibrahim Foulifil, head of the Damietta port, said on Sunday that protesters set fire to the factory`s water station and blocked roads to cut off access to the port.

"No one can get in or out," he said. "We are losing millions every day."

Ashraf Zaghloul, deputy manager of Damietta`s main hospital, said one protester was killed and three injured.

The protests seek to stop a government plan to expand the MOPCO fertiliser factory, which local residents fear will cause health and environmental problems nearby.

In the southern city of Aswan, police stopped thousands of members of Egypt`s Nubian minority from attacking a police station. Instead, the protesters shattered the windows of a social club for police and set it on fire early Sunday, witnesses said.

Protesters were enraged by the death of a Nubian fisherman on Saturday. He was shot by a policeman.

Egypt`s Nubians, believed to be descendants of an ancient African civilisation that flourished in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan, say they have suffered decades of discrimination.

Bureau Report

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