Blogger and activist Ahmed Douma has been detained by security forces multiple times and was released from his most recent detention on Monday.
He had been remanded to custody for 30 days pending investigations into the violence that erupted last December outside the cabinet building in Cairo. A court also accepted an appeal against accusations Douma was involved in setting fire to the downtown Institut d'Egypte, which houses important scientific manuscripts and other archives, on 17 December.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: How do you see your release?
Ahmed Douma: A historic ruling that I hadn’t expected to be issued that way, especially in light of attempts to remove all those with relations to the revolution either in Parliament, the Constituent Assembly or presidential elections, and given the appearance of former regime figures like former VP Omar Suleiman, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and others. The ruling was issued by a respectful judge, whose name I don’t know. He insisted on reviewing the evidence and considering a retrial. He also allowed me to defend myself. I talked for around half an hour from inside the cage. He decreed that I have no relations with the accusations levelled against me and that the evidence was fabricated.
Al-Masry: But you admitted burning Institut d’Egypte?
Douma: I precisely said that revolutionaries have the right to defend themselves against anyone, whether they are in a military uniform or not, especially if they were assaulted by being beaten, harassed or shot. I wondered once if the revolution was sacred or was desecrated by the killing, but said it was within the revolution and revolutionaries’ right to defend themselves. However, the judge told me that my talk on burning Institut d’Egypte wasn’t direct but implicit.
Al-Masry: How long have you spent at Tora prison?
Douma: Three months and 10 days. Although it’s called the prison of the famous, the administration was treating me like a dog. The former officials in Tora used to play football, go to the library and the clinic. They used their iPads and conducted polls on Facebook. No one was allowed to deal with me. During the 100-day period, I spoke to no one and wasn’t able to write, however, former Housing Minister [Mohamed] Ibrahim Suleiman was allowed to write a whole book inside the prison.
Al-Masry: How do you see the timing of your release?
Douma: I was astonished at the beginning, but then refused to be controled by that feeling. I then realized that Egypt still has honorable judges who don’t wait for instructions from former or current security services.
Al-Masry: How do you evaluate the revolution before and after being imprisoned?
Douma: The revolution was dying before I went to prison. When I went out it was like a corpse.
Al-Masry: What do you think about the nomination of Omar Suleiman and Ahmed Shafiq for president?
Douma: Audacity. Their nomination, plus agreements among the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis with the ruling military military council over sharing the spoils, is the biggest motivation for a second wave of anger. What happened would encourage people to start another revolution.
Al-Masry: And for Mohamed ElBaradei’s move to establish a political party?
Douma: A master’s strike, a very late step though. However, I agreed with other activists to form a front of the political movements to join his party, to be an umbrella for all revolutionaries apart from any other ideologies.
Al-Masry: Could this party be the nucleus of a new revolution?
Douma: The Brotherhood and Salafis betrayed the revolution from the very beginning. Having a revolution with no leader was great, however, that was a reason for its failure. Egyptians sacrificed 1,800 martyrs then, and they are ready to sacrifice 18,000 more. The new revolutionary status will be totally different, it will not be like the first one. We will not cooperate with the Brotherhood and Salafis. We will hold revolution courts. Our slogan will still be "Freedom or Blood."
Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm