After a total of forty-five days in jail, Egyptian blogger, technogeek and democracy activist Alaa has been freed.
My usual insatiable curiosity at that time about whether googlebombing actually worked led me to check out the theory over a couple of days by repeatedly googling on "Egypt." As far as I could see, it wasn't working, though the number of hits on googling the phrase "Free Alaa" went up at the very impressive rate of 57,000 links to 336,000 links.
Tonight, if you google "Free Alaa", you will get over 1,000,000 links, which I'm impressed by. But you still won't find Free Alaa anywhere amongst the top pages if you google "Egypt". Hardly suprising, because there are 344,000,000 links for that.
The Egyptian bloggers Sandmonkey and Big Pharaoh both link to a fellow Egyptian blogger activist, the Arabist, who reports that Alaa was made to undergo a roughing up and sleep deprivation after his release was announced, and before he was let out yesterday. This is what happened:
I spoke with his wife Manal. She says Alaa was moved from Tora prison
to 3omraniya police station last night, for the notorious bureaucratic
paper work. Alaa was locked up in a tiny cell, full of criminals, some
of whom are high on drugs and others are armed with knives and sharp
objects, Manal said. Scuffles have broken out inside the cell between
the criminals, who reportedly hit Alaa several times. Alaa spent the
night standing on his feet, coz there was no room for him to sleep in
that filthy cell. According to Manal, he managed to call her on the
mobile phone, and he sounded in a very bad state.
Reading the whole story of his arrest, three repeated re-imprisonments and then the brutal cat-and-mouse of the last day of his imprisonment reminds me so much of the methods of the KGB as described so vividly in Anne Applebaum's Gulag and of course a host of incredible prisoner memoires.
Perhaps that's not surprising, because Egypt used to be a client state of the Soviet Union.
Of course, what he suffered, bad as it was, pales beside what they went through. No-one who was a KGB prisoner managed to get uncensored letters smuggled out, let alone use a phone, as Alaa did.
But the great irony is that the Egyptian state still seems more wedded to the old totalitarian ways than it is to the ways of democracy, for all that it's seen as a US client state these days.
Which is why the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt seems to be able to represent itself as a champion of democracy in Egypt, when its aim is for the establishment of a caliphate totalitarian state.
Was the roughing up Alaa received a two-fingers response to the campaign to release him? It will be worth seeing how Glenn Reynolds, who previously claimed that blogger campaigns had led to an earlier imprisoned democracy activist being freed by the Egyptian authorities, reads the situation now.