CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian prosecutors presented in court Wednesday a personal home video of a prominent activist's wife dancing as evidence against him in his retrial on charges of protesting and beating a police officer, prompting an outcry from his lawyers that the material was irrelevant and defamatory.
Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a prominent blogger who has been a vocal government critic since mid-2000, was sentenced this summer to 15 years in prison for protesting, the harshest sentence against secular activists amid authorities' crackdown on Islamists. He was granted a retrial last month on charges of organizing an unauthorized protest last November.
Among the evidence presented in court for the first time was a clip of Abdel-Fattah's wife belly dancing, clearly at a private family event. Standing in a double-glazed glass cage, Abdel-Fattah screamed at the court: "This is family stuff!" His voice can hardly be heard because the sound from the cage can only accessed if the judge turns on a microphone.
Wednesday's court session was the first time since Abdel-Fattah stood trial that prosecutors played evidence to the court, filled with journalists, diplomats and family members.
Most of the evidence presented Wednesday consisted of videos clips from private TV stations showing various protests and police chasing unidentified civilians, although no scenes or footage of Abdel-Fattah or any other defendant in the case were shown.
Abdel-Fattah's lawyers said the admission of the home video in court was intended to extort and slander the family by showing that prosecutors have access to their private life.
Taher Abul-Nasr, the lead defense lawyer, told the court the video was taken from the computer of Abdel-Fattah's wife which was seized from their home without a search warrant. Abdel-Fattah was arrested at home days after the protest.
"What is the aim of showing this in court? How did the prosecution see this as related to the charges" against Abdel-Fattah.
The prosecutor told the court it was up to the judge to decide whether to admit it. Abdel-Fattah is accused of beating a police officer and stealing his walkie-talkie, a charge he denied.
Another defense lawyer, Mohammed Abdel-Aziz, said there was no reason for the prosecution to play the clip. "Is the video a call to protest?" he said. "This is extortion and we fear they could leak this to the internet."
Abdel-Fattah's mother, university professor and prominent activist Leila Soueif, said the case against her son is part of a campaign "to break the spirit" of youth activists and protesters who are vocal critics of the government.
Abdel-Fattah has been on hunger strike for over three weeks to protest his continued detention. His two sisters, one of whom is also imprisoned and facing trial also for protesting, are on hunger strike, along with his mother, to call for their release and the abolishing of the anti-protest law.
The government says the law is necessary to stem unrest amid a rising wave of violence. On Wednesday, the interior ministry said police arrested 22 people on suspicion of carrying out attacks on police officers and the country's electricity infrastructure.