Egypt activist released in case that raises fears for democracy

CAIRO Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:18pm EDT

1 of 2. Alaa Abdel Fattah (R), one of the activists who was summoned by the public prosecutor on whether he had a role in the recent violent anti-Islamists protests, arrives with his wife and child to the public prosecutor's office in Cairo, March 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih

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CAIRO (Reuters) - A prominent Egyptian political activist accused of inciting violence against President Mohamed Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood was released without bail on Tuesday after he turned himself in for questioning, the prosecutor general's office said.

Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a blogger who became a symbol of the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011, was among five activists the prosecutor general ordered on Monday be arrested - a step the opposition decried as a reversal for democracy.

Abd El-Fattah said on his Twitter feed after questioning: "In general, I refused to answer all the questions because the prosecutor general is not neutral."

"There are no witnesses, no investigations, no facts, nothing," he said.

The arrest orders seemed certain to deepen mistrust in an already polarized political landscape, further complicating Mursi's efforts to build bridges with his opponents before parliamentary polls which they threatened to boycott.

The other four activists Ahmed Douma, Karim al-Shaer, Hazem Abdel Azeem and Ahmed al-Sahafi still face arrest orders but refused to show up at the prosecutor general's office, their lawyer, Tamer Gomaa, told Reuters.

In a statement, the prosecutor general's spokesman said Abd El-Fattah had come in for questioning but did not mention the four others.

The activists were accused of inciting aggression, destruction of property and disturbing civil peace in street clashes near the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters on Friday, when at least 130 people were hospitalized.

"CRIMINAL PLAN"

Two of the country's top opposition papers on Tuesday criticized the arrest orders. Daily Al Dostour in an editorial accused the president and the Muslim Brotherhood of a "criminal plan" and "implementing exceptional laws" as well as "blockading politicians."

The arrest warrants follow a threat on Sunday by Mursi to take steps to protect the nation following Friday's clashes. Mursi said "necessary measures" would be taken against any politicians found to be involved.

The opposition accuses the public prosecutor of being biased toward the Muslim Brotherhood.

"They will keep searching for people until they find them and arrest them. They have no option but to do this. It is a political case and that is why people do not want to go," said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for the National Salvation Front, an alliance of liberal and leftist opposition parties.

Mursi's opponents accuse him and the Brotherhood of seeking to dominate the post-Mubarak era. The Brotherhood has in turn accused the opposition of failing to respect democratic rules.

The Brotherhood on Monday filed a formal legal complaint against 169 people, including leaders of political parties, it accused of inciting or carrying out Friday's violence.

"The Brotherhood decided to follow all those who called for and incited these protests or participated in them by all legal means," Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie said on Tuesday.

"It will not abandon any of its rights."

(Reporting and writing by Asma Alsharif; Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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