The more things change...

A note on the arrest (and subsequent release) of AUC law professor Amr Shalakany over the weekend. According to his lawyer, Shalakany was arrested after getting into a verbal argument with a police officer in Sharm El Sheikh. The officer accused him of "insulting the police and the army" (my emphasis) and referred him to a military court. While he was being held overnight in jail, someone in his cell started a small fire (a common strategy here to get wardens to move prisoners out of over-crowded cells) and Shalakany was then also accused, for good measure, with "incitement to burn down a police station."

In the end, a military court and then a civilian one both declined to pursue the charges. Shalakany is a well-known academic, with many friends and supporters, and a contributor to The New York Times blog. His arrest was quickly and indignantly reported. I saw someone on Twitter rejoicing that the army "heard us." To me what happened sends a different message: if you get in a fight with a policeman, he will think of a trumped-up charge against you (nothing new) and try to refer you to a military trial (new and even worse than before). Just as under Mubarak, if you're not someone wealthy, well-connected or well-known, watch out. As Shalakany's lawyer, Ashraf Abbas told me: "At first they thought he was just anybody." Someone like the 5,000 "anybodies" they've already tried