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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Egypt to release award-winning blogger from jail

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian authorities on Tuesday ordered the release of an award-winning blogger arrested last month during protests in support of judges demanding greater judicial independence, relatives and friends said.

Alaa Seif El Islam was arrested on May 7 with 10 other activists for demonstrating in support of two judges facing a disciplinary hearing for reporting electoral violations.

Prosecutors extended his detention for three consecutive 15-day periods, and then ordered his release on Tuesday. But they had not dropped the charges, the relatives said.

Under the usual release procedures, Seif El Islam would not leave jail until Wednesday.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch had criticised the detention of the protesters, including Seif El Islam, and called for their release. "These new arrests indicate that President (Hosni) Mubarak intends to silence all peaceful opposition," the group said at the time.

Seif El Islam and his wife, Manal Bahy el-Din, run the dissident Web site www.manalaa.net, which campaigns for freedom and democracy in Egypt. They won an award from the media freedom group Reporters Without Borders.

He became the centre of an extensive Internet campaign to secure his release and managed to continue posting on his blog from his cell through notes passed to his wife.

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