Egypt blogger Alaa Abdul Fattah arrested over protest

Egyptian pro-democracy activist and opponent of Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood, Alaa Abd Fattah, arrives at the general prosecutor office in Cairo holding his son on March 26, 2013, to turn himself in for questioning, a day after an order for his arrest Alaa Abdel Fattah (centre) was questioned earlier this year after protests against the Muslim Brotherhood

Police in Egypt have arrested a prominent activist accused of calling for protests in defiance of a new law restricting demonstrations.

The blogger Alaa Abdul Fattah took part in a rally outside the upper house of parliament on Tuesday.

Protesters were calling for the repeal of a new law that bans unauthorised demonstrations.

Mr Abdul Fattah played a leading role in the 2011 revolt against Hosni Mubarak.

The pro-democracy campaigner was previously detained under Mr Mubarak's government and questioned over demonstrations against the Muslim Brotherhood earlier this year.

Wife 'beaten'

His family said he was arrested on Thursday night at his home in Cairo.

Analysis

After months of being the primary target for Egypt's military government, the Muslim Brotherhood now feels it has company.

Dozens of secular activists were arrested in recent days, joining the massed ranks of the Brotherhood who are already behind bars (an estimated 2,500 leaders and supporters).

The liberals were detained after demonstrating against a draconian new law which effectively bans public protests.

The heavy-handed crackdown feels like an echo of the past.

Some women activists say they were beaten, harassed and left stranded in the desert after their arrest - a favourite tactic of the Mubarak era.

The harsh verdict against 21 women and girls who protested in Alexandria has heightened concerns about a growing authoritarianism. The military installed government here maintains it is safeguarding public order in a turbulent time, and moving towards democracy. But leading activists from the revolution of 2011 say it is repeating the mistakes of the past.

His father, prominent lawyer Ahmed Seif al-Islam, told the Associated Press news agency that his son's wife was beaten during the raid and that laptop computers were removed from the house.

Egypt's new legislation, signed by the interim President Adly Mansour, bans protests that do not have prior police notification.

Activists say the new law appears stricter than those in place during the rule of Mr Mubarak, who was forced to step down in 2011 after mass protests.

Prosecutors announced on Wednesday that arrest warrants had been issued for Mr Abdul Fattah along with Ahmed Maher, head of the 6 April youth movement.

They said investigations showed the pair had "incited" people to "violate the protest law" by demonstrating outside the Shura Council building.

Mr Abdul Fattah said he did not deny the charge.

"It's an honour to hold responsibility for people's rallies in defiance to legalising the return of the rule of Hosni Mubarak, the long-time president ousted in Egypt's 2011 revolution," he said.

His arrest triggered flurry of reaction on Egyptian social media, drawing both calls for his release and expressions of support for his arrest.

Another 24 activists detained at the protest were remanded in custody for four days on suspicion of various charges.

Critics say the new law effectively replaces the recently expired state of emergency that was declared in mid-August, after hundreds of people were killed when security forces cleared two sit-ins in Cairo by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

Egyptian protesters chant slogans during a protest in Talaat Harb Square in Cairo, Egypt, against the issuance of a new law regulating demonstrations, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. Protests against the legislation continued in Cairo on Thursday

On Wednesday, 21 female Islamist protesters, some of them young teenagers, were jailed for 11 years after being arrested last month at a demonstration in support of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

The sentences have been condemned by human rights groups.

The harsh verdict has heightened concerns about a growing authoritarianism, says the BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo.

Activists say the authorities are making a heavy-handed attempt to turn back the clock, our correspondent says.

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