EGYPT: Blogger gets three years in jail for ‘insulting the military’
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In the first such case since the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak, an Egyptian blogger has been sentenced to three years in jail by a military court for “insulting the military” and “disturbing public security.”
Maikel Nabil Sanad was arrested March 28 after writing on a blog that “he was providing evidence proving that the military has been deceiving Egyptians” during and after the 18-day revolt that started Jan. 25 and ended with Mubarak’s ouster. A military council of top generals now runs the country.
Human rights advocates expressed puzzlement at Sanad’s sentence, especially after his lawyers were assured on Sunday that his judgment wouldn’t be announced until Tuesday. But late Sunday he was discreetly found guilty and sentenced to jail.
“Such an act raises suspicions and doubts about the fairness of the court which tried Nabil. Not only because it is a military court judging a civilian for expressing his opinion, but also the way his hearings were carried out,” said a statement by the Arab Network for Human Rights Information.
“Nabil’s freedom was stolen ... not only by the military court but also by a number of Egyptian newspapers, who are hypocritical regarding the ruling military council and refuse to publish any news about the military’s violations.” The statement added.
Human Rights Watch condemned Sanad’s arrest and called on the Egyptian military to drop all the charges against him. Adding the word ‘never’ to a popular saying adopted by Egyptians to show appreciation for the army’s role in overthrowing Mubarak, Sanad titled his blog, “The army and the people have never been one hand.”
The 25-year-old activist wrote that “the army supplied police forces with extra ammunition to shoot protesters on Jan. 28,” adding that “the military later put protesters in Tahrir Square under siege and attempted to forcibly evacuate the demonstrations more than once.”
Sanad wrote that it was the military that started detaining a number of bloggers and activists during the revolt, including him. On Feb. 4, he said he was taken to a military camp and beaten by army soldiers before his release two days later.
According to his blog, the military has fronted a pro-revolution stance but its true intent is to abort the ideals of the movement. Arresting and jailing bloggers had been a trend during Mubarak’s era; nonetheless, Sanad’s conviction is an unprecedented one that raises concerns about the safety of opinion writers and activists under the Supreme Military Council’s rule.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo