IF AHMED MAHER feels he has tumbled down a rabbit hole, he is unfortunately right. A founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, one of the leading lights in the Egypt democracy campaign that brought down Hosni Mubarak, today remains in Cairo’s Tora prison, where so many of Mr. Mubarak’s critics were tormented. Mr. Maher was sentenced to three years of incarceration for breaking a wrong-headed law against democratic protests imposed by the new military regime. Mr. Maher has gone from soaring victory at the time of the 2011 Tahrir Square revolution that toppled Mr. Mubarak to the depths of deprivation.
Two weeks ago, from prison, Mr. Maher wrote anop-ed for these pages in which he declared, “Egypt is ruled by a military regime that does not tolerate criticism or even advice.” He took Secretary of State John F. Kerry to task, saying that his comments in November about a “road map” to democracy, and recent restoration of aid to Egypt, were counterproductive. “There is no path of democracy” in Egypt today, Mr. Maher said, “it is all a comical farce.”
Mr. Maher is a courageous exponent of democracy who stood by his principles. He did not like the turmoil that followed the election victory of the Muslim Brotherhood, but he was far more disgusted by the military-backed coup that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi and the subsequent rise of a new totalitarianism. Slowly, the Mubarak regime is coming back to power, with all of the arbitrary and capricious use of power to smother dissent and criticism. The very edifice that crumbled in the Arab Spring seems to be rising anew.
Mr. Maher has in recent days gone on a hunger strike in prison to protest what friends say is rough treatment. At the same time, we are told that a lawyer representing the government has filed a fresh petition against Mr. Maher seeking to press charges of treason against him for his June 5 op-ed in this newspaper. Mr. Maher had written, “The Egyptian authorities must respect freedoms, human rights, freedom of expression, dialogue and inclusion and must not encourage others to resort to extremism and violence.” If this is treason, then The Post must stand with Mr. Maher in its defense.
Mr. Maher is the kind of Egyptian voice that should have triumphed after the Arab Spring. It is terribly discouraging to see him persecuted in this way. It is also discouraging that the Obama administration has not been more outspoken about his treatment or more honest about Egypt’s path.