To the Editors:

During the last month Egyptian state security forces have arrested close to eight hundred citizens for (peacefully) demonstrating solidarity with Egyptian judges demanding the independence of the judiciary (see www Since then, thirteen have been released. Among the young activists still in custody in Tora jail is my nephew, Alaa Abd El-Fatah. Because he is a prominent computer man and blogger he has become the centerpiece of the campaign to free all the detainees. The following is a letter of support for him. I hope New York Review readers will consider signing and circulating it.

Ahdaf Soueif

London, England


Alaa Abd El-Fatah is one of Egypt’s most prominent bloggers and free speech advocates. He and his wife, Manal, run the popular blog BitBucket, which collects posts from dozens of Egyptian blogs and which won a “Best of the Blogs” award in December from Reporters Without Borders.

On Saturday, May 7, Alaa was arrested with a group of activists during a peaceful demonstration outside a Cairo courthouse. The rally denounced disciplinary hearings for two reform judges and arrests of protesters at previous demonstrations. Alaa and a group of other demonstrators were cornered by Egyptian police, and security agents then apparently handpicked individual protesters for arrest.

Alaa seems to have been targeted because of his high profile: he helped organize these protests and spread information through the blog aggregator he runs. He is now being held in the notorious Tora Prison—and his arrest seems designed to both shut down his blog aggregator and scare other Egyptian bloggers. But messages to the Egyptian government may be sent through the petition at /alaa (you can edit the petition text), which will generate an e-mail to political leaders to press them to secure Alaa’s release.

The petition will be sent to Egypt’s Ambassador to the US Nabil Fahmy, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, Egypt’s Interior Minister Habib El Adly, US Ambassador to Egypt Francis Ricciardone, and US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch.

Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance (HAMSA)

Cambridge, Massachusetts

This Issue

June 22, 2006