Egyptian Opposition Turns Attention to Jailed Blogger

Egyptian Opposition Turns Attention to Jailed Blogger

Ayman Nour“s release from prison last Wednesday had Egypt”s opposition in an optimistic frenzy, but it lasted only a few days, as reality swept back into the anti-government forces who have turned their attention to the hundreds of political activists that languish behind bars. Among them is Diaeddin Gad, a 23-year-old blogger who was taken from his northern Egyptian home by security forces on Feb. 6.

That date may appear familiar and rightfully so. It was the same day that German-Egyptian blogger and activist Philip Rizk was arrested and whisked off to an unknown location for four days before he was released. His case put the international focus on Egypt”s crackdown of opposition activists, especially bloggers.

Cairo released Nour, the 44-year-old former Al Ghad (Tomorrow) party chief and presidential candidate, last week in a move seen as appeasing the young President Barack Obama administration in Washington. The placation of the United States has not been lost on Egyptians” increasingly youthful opposition, who have said they will not allow Nour”s release to shadow those remaining in jail, including Gad.

“We support him and will not stop until he and the others are released. It is despicable that they would take him and let the world focus on Rizk, then release him and keep him behind bars somewhere in the country,” a prominent Arabic language blogger who asked to remain anonymous told the Middle East Times.

“It is obvious that if you don”t have a second passport or get the support from America you will stay in prison,” the blogger added.

Three weeks since his arrest in Tanta – about an hour north of Cairo – Gad”s location and status remain a mystery. London-based human rights organization Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Egyptian government to disclose his whereabouts, arguing that they want to determine if torture has taken place.

His family reported that Gad had returned to Tanta and was taking a phone call outside his house when he was arrested by security officers who, eyewitnesses said, beat him in the street as he yelled for his mother”s help.

Amnesty reported that his mother confirmed that he requires painkillers and other medication in order to help his panic attacks and leg pain from a childhood injury. None of the medication was with him when he was arrested, she said.

His Sout Ghadeb (Angry Voice) blog had been critical of the Egyptian government”s handling of the aftermath of Israel”s war in Gaza that ended last month. He wrote negatively of the government”s restrictions on humanitarian aid being delivered to Gaza from Egypt and the arrest of Ahmed Doma – a leading member of the civil disobedience youth movement, the Popular Movement to Free Egypt – two days before his own detainment.

But, most appalling to the government was a posting in which he called President Hosni Mubarak, “Ehud Mubarak,” referencing to the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Amnesty said in a statement that there is no evidence that Egyptian authorities have not tortured or ill-treated the young blogger and have demanded that his lawyers, his family and any medical attention be given immediately.

“The Egyptian authorities should release Diaeddin Gad immediately and unconditionally, unless he is promptly charged with a recognizably criminal offense. He appears to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and association,” the Amnesty statement said.

The government is accusing Gad of being a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement. Hundreds of Brotherhood activists remain in prison since Cairo began a crackdown on the opposition group following its surprise showing in the 2005 parliamentary elections. Brotherhood candidates, running as independents, secured 88 seats in the more important Lower House. The government has fought back, arresting hundreds and forcing the group underground.

Known Brotherhood bloggers told the Middle East Times that Gad “may or may not be a Brotherhood member.” Their desire to remain coded is surprising, as the group normally takes responsibility for its arrested members.

“It doesn”t matter if he is Brotherhood or not,” said Mahmoud Abdel Rahman, a young activist who attended the same liberal Wafd Party rally as Gad days before the blogger was detained. “He is a person who spoke out and he was peaceful, so how can they continue to treat him like an animal. It is the government who is the animal.”