CAIRO (AP) — The mother of one of Egypt's best known activists has gone on hunger strike to protest her son's detention by the country's military rulers, the family said on Wednesday.
Laila Soueif's protest is part of the furor surrounding the Oct. 30 arrest of her son, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, one of Egypt's most vocal activists and bloggers and an icon of the uprising that led to Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February.
The military has accused Abdel-Fattah of inciting sectarian clashes on Oct. 9 that killed 27 people, most of them Christians, in the worst violence since the anti-Mubarak revolt. He is also accused of assaulting on-duty soldiers and damaging military property.
Abdel-Fattah's family said that Soueif, who is 55, began the strike on Sunday and has been surviving on water, tea and cigarettes.
"I am good so far," a cheerful Soueif told The Associated Press by telephone. "My blood pressure is stable, but I will continue the hunger strike until Alaa is freed."
Mona Seif, Abdel-Fattah's sister, said her mother was not showing any signs of physical frailty.
Abdel-Fattah was summoned by military prosecutors on Oct. 30. He refused to answer questions about the Oct. 9 violence on the grounds that the military was involved in the clashes.
Abdel-Fattah's supporters have planned a protest for later Wednesday outside the Cairo prison where he is being held. They dismiss the claims against Abdel-Fattah, saying the military is trying to silence a prominent critic and to deflect blame on its soldiers in the violence.
A persistent controversy over whom to blame for the bloodshed has signaled a new low in relations between the military and activists, who blame the troops for starting the violence and army vehicles of running over protesters. The military denies the charge, insisting that troops deployed to deal with a Christian protest had no ammunition or firearms.
The military initially ordered the Cabinet to investigate the violence but later decreed that it will carry out the probe itself, a move that led to suspicions of a cover-up.
Abdel-Fattah's arrest has triggered an uproar at home and abroad and, like the Oct. 9 clashes, has further tainted the military's reputation.
His detention is one of several issues that have strained relations between the military and political activists. They accuse the ruling generals of human rights violations, ignoring calls at home and abroad for stopping trials of civilians before military tribunals — at least 12,000 since February — and of making major policy decisions without consultations.
"My brother's arrest is a message from the military that it will now target the activists whom we thought were immune by virtue of their prominence," Seif, Abdel-Fattah's sister, said.