In a setback to freedom of expression in post-Mubarak Egypt, Egyptian blogger, 26-year-old Maikel Nabil Sanad, has been sentenced to three years in prison for criticizing the military. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has been in control of Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was ousted on February 11th following 18 days of protests. Nabil was sentenced by a military court and is said to be the first blogger imprisoned in Egypt since Mubarak’s fall.
According to the New York Times, the charges against Nabil include “insulting the military establishment…spreading false information about the armed forces…[and] spreading information previously published by human rights organizations like Amnesty International on the army’s use of violence against protesters,” as well as the torture used on those detained in the Egyptian Museum and forced pelvic exams, known as ‘virginity tests,’ used on female protesters. The main evidence against Nabil, who blogged as ‘Son of Ra,’ was a CD containing 73 screen shots of entries on his blog and his personal Facebook page, says Human Rights Watch.
Says Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch:
“Maikel Nabil’s three-year sentence may be the worst strike against free expression in Egypt since the Mubarak government jailed the first blogger for four years in 2007. The sentence is not only severe, but it was imposed by a military tribunal after an unfair trial.”
Nabil was arrested on March 28, 2011, at his home in Cairo. Says Human Rights Watch:
The military prosecutor charged him with “insulting the military establishment,” under article 184 of the penal code, and with “spreading false information,” a violation of article 102 bis. The military judge had announced on April 6 that he would rule on April 10 after defense lawyers had completed their pleadings. On April 10, Nabil’s lawyers were informed that no session would take place on that day and that the judge would rule on April 12.
Adel Ramadan, of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, one of Nabil’s defense lawyers, told Human Rights Watch that when the lawyers went to the court complex on the morning of April 11, they saw on the court roll that the court had already sentenced Nabil the day before. In violation of the Code of Military Justice, the lawyers had not been present.
Nabil’s lawyers and parents were barred from communicating with him during sentencing. A Christian, Nabil “may have been singled out as an easy target, partly because of previous run-ins with the military and partly because of his pro-Israel views,” according to Mona Seif, a rights advocate. In 2010, he had refused to fulfill his obligatory military service and had ever since campaigned against mandatory conscription. Nabil had also praised Israel for its “democracy, educational standards and innovations.”
“The things they charged him with, most of us could also be charged with. The evidence and the testimony they used against him are things that I and a lot of human rights campaigners have been writing about too.”
On The Lede blog, the New York Times also quoted Egptian journalist Mona Eltahawy, who said that Nabil’s conviction for “insulting the Armed Forces” seems to “echo a notorious decision by the old regime: the four-year term given to another Egyptian blogger, Kareem Amer, when he was convicted of insulting Islam and the president in 2007.”
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