Ms. Abdel Fattah lent credibility to Mr. Sissi’s claims to be restoring democracy in Egypt. Now she is in prison and suffering torture. Last Saturday, she was abducted from her car near Cairo by plainclothes security forces and taken to an undisclosed place of detention. There, according to an account she provided through her lawyers, she was severely beaten and choked with her own sweatshirt until she lost consciousness. Later, she was forced to stand for nearly eight hours with her hands tied above her head before being shackled to a pole.
The 41-year-old activist is being held on charges of joining a terrorist group, disseminating false news and misusing social media. Meanwhile, Egyptian state media have launched a smear campaign against her. Among the allegations, ironically, are reports of phone calls in which Ms. Abdel Fattah says she is more worried about military dictatorship in Egypt than the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement Mr. Morsi represented.
Ms. Abdel Fattah is one of a host of Egyptian activists, journalists and intellectuals who supported Mr. Sissi against the Muslim Brotherhood only to find themselves targets of what has become the most repressive dictatorship in Egypt’s modern history. Many have been imprisoned or forced into exile in recent years. Since Sept. 20, when anti-government demonstrations suddenly erupted in Cairo and several other cities, a number of those who remained have been abducted and jailed by security forces, even though they had nothing to do with the new protests.
In addition to Ms. Abdel Fattah, those caught up in the sweep include lawyer Mahienour el-Massry , political activist and journalist Khaled Dawoud, journalist Mustafa al-Khateeb and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was imprisoned for protesting the Morsi government and now has spent most of Mr. Sissi’s reign behind bars.
To be clear: These are not supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Mr. Sissi has demonized and used to convince Western supporters, including President Trump, of the need for his harsh rule. These are Egyptians who aspire to build a democratic order in the Arab world’s most populous nation, based on freedom of speech and assembly, and free and fair elections. They opposed Islamist rule, so much so that some welcomed military intervention to prevent it.
By subjecting them to jail, torture and exile, Mr. Sissi is not only demonstrating the weakness of his regime, which was panicked by a modest wave of protests. He is also ensuring that the only alternative to military rule in Egypt will be that of the Islamists. That’s an outcome entirely contrary to U.S. interests — and one the Trump administration supports with its more than $1 billion in annual military aid to Egypt.