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

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Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.