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Alaa Is Free

Award-winning Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Seif al-Islam Abd al-Fattah walked out of Omraniya police station late this afternoon after spending 46 days in detention for attending a May 7 protest. I spoke with him soon after his release and he sounded fine—exhausted after a terrible night in the police station jail, but happy to be free and heading home. Manal and Alaa are Manalaa again.

“Joy is as infectious as sorrow,” the great Egyptian intellectual Taha Hussein wrote in 1929, “and among Egyptians nothing catches so quickly.” A tense hour today bore out the truth of that observation. Rumors suggesting that plainclothes police were beating Alaa and forcing him to remain standing for prolonged periods without sleep spread quickly over SMS touched off a flurry of activity over email and the Egyptian blogosphere. Manal must have spent some frantic minutes fielding calls from concerned friends and reporters. Alaa, she told me, was being held in terrible, crowded conditions with run-of-the-mill hoodlums in Omraniya police station. But his cellmates and the crowded, filthy conditions—not the police—were apparently the proximate cause of his suffering.

Then, minutes later, news came over SMS that Alaa was free.

Hossam al-Hamalawy‘s post summed up the mood:

he’s out… yes, finally out!!!! hohohohohoh!! MABROUK YA SHABAB! MABROUK YA TENNIN YA BAMBY! [Congratulations, guys! Congratulations, you pink dragon!]

He’s in great spirits. I asked him, “Shall we meet up soon?” He answered quickly, “Of course, next demo!” followed by a long laughter…

And Sandmonkey's agonized post, updated several times over the space of that confused hour, conveyed some of the afternoon's drama.

Perhaps because many of Egypt's Arabic-language bloggers were marching on the police station to demand Alaa's immediate release, the English-language Egyptian blogs carried the news first. The Arabic-language bloggers will join in soon. This time, they'll be joined by a familiar, funny, incisive voice even Torah prison couldn't silence.

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