CAIRO: Egyptian political blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah was released from custody after a long detention at Cairo International Airport on Monday for allegedly dodging a sentence over a bounced check, according to Manal Hassan, his wife, who is also a blogger.
At press time Taher Aboul Nasr, one of Abdel Fattah’s lawyers, told Daily News Egypt that they had submitted an official complaint and that two other lawyers filed it at the airport’s police station.
The couple had arrived at Cairo International Airport at 5:40 am on Monday, flying in from their current home in South Africa. They were holding temporary travel documents issued by the Egyptian embassy in South Africa to substitute for their passports, which were stolen in a car robbery last February.
“Traveling with a document like this, they automatically assume you have been deported [from the country you are coming from], Hassan told Daily News Egypt.
Abdel Fattah was updating his twitter page as they were held at the airport.
Hassan said that they were forced to go through extensive security checks that lasted more than seven hours, the last of which was a search through their criminal records.
“It was then that they discovered that Alaa had been charged in absentia over a bad check, even though he doesn’t even own a check book, said Hassan.
“We didn’t receive notification of the sentence before. It was all really confusing, she said upon exiting the airport.
“This is not the first time we see this happening to online political activists, Ramy Raouf from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), commented.
“It happened to Wael Abbas last November. We’re used to this behavior, said Raouf, adding that the government has adopted a way to punish online activists by charging them with “offline offenses.
Abdel Fattah and Hassan are the couple behind the award-winning blog www.manalaa.net.
In 2006, he was detained in Tora prison along with 47 other activists to be released without charge 45 days later.
Bloggers and political activists in Egypt often complain of security harassment and intimidation, and are frequently detained for extensive checks on their way in and out of the country.