The globally trending #FreeAlaa was used as part of a campaign to commemorate the one year anniversary of Abd El Fattah’s imprisonment, along with other activists detained for violating the protest law. Images of Abd El Fattah also appeared on Facebook and other social media platforms, in solidarity with activists jailed in the Shura Council Case.
In reaction to this, the hashtag #FreeSmeda began trending on Twitter, with users parodying the #FreeAlaa campaign. The name “Smeda” in this context is used to imply thuggishness or criminality.
One user tweeted a picture of US President Barack Obama purportedly calling for “Smeda’s” release. The tweet, below, reads: “Urgent from Al Jazeera: The US Navy has moved in front of the Egyptian coast until the release of Smeda.” Al Jazeera has been widely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian press, where anti-American rhetoric is often seen as well.
Another user sarcastically tweeted, “Smeda isn’t a criminal, you stupid regime, Smeda is a scream of hope in the face of oppressors #FreeSmeda.”
Other users dug up a number of Abd El Fattah’s old tweets, in which he had aggressively attacked police officers, to condemn the activist.
However, some Twitter users responded negatively to the #FreeSmeda hashtag, with one user tweeting, “The whole #FreeSmeda hashtag is a spoof by Sisi camp tweeps of #FreeAlaa. Pathetic if you ask me. And I’m not even a fan of Alaa.”
Abd El Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison in February for allegedly violating the controversial protest law, along with Ahmed Abdel Rahman and 20 others. The defendants in the case were arrested in relation to a protest against military trials in front of the Shura Council in 2013. Abdel Rahman, who remains in detention, was arrested while walking by when he saw the police dispersing the demonstration and intervened to defend female protesters.
In September, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned 100 young people serving time for charges including violating the protest law. Abd El Fattah’s sister Sanaa was among those who were released, along with 18 defendants in the Shura Council case. Abd El Fattah, Abdel Rahman, along with Abdel Rahman al-Sayed and Abdel Rahman al-Tarek, remain in prison.