First Published: 2011-04-11

 

Egypt blogger gets 3 years for criticising military

 

Rights groups slam Egyptian military court's verdict that 'was handed out almost in secret'.

 

Middle East Online

By Jailan Zayan - CAIRO

'The new government's first prisoner of conscience'

A military court has jailed a blogger for three years for criticising the armed forces that have ruled Egypt since president Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February, in a decision slammed by rights groups on Monday.

"Regrettably, the Nasr City military court sentenced Maikel Nabil to three years in prison," the blogger's lawyer Gamal Eid said.

"The lawyers were not present, the verdict was handed out almost in secret."

The decision had initially been set for Wednesday and was postponed to Sunday. The lawyers went on Sunday but were told to leave because there would be no verdict, Eid said.

"We were then very surprised to hear that he (Nabil) was sentenced to three years," said Eid, who heads the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

The verdict is likely to cause concern among Egypt's large network of bloggers who had hoped Mubarak's overthrow in a popular uprising would usher in a new era of freedom of expression.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the ruling, saying Nabil had become "the new government's first prisoner of conscience."

"The methods used by the Egyptian military do not seem to have evolved since Hosni Mubarak's fall," the group's secretary general Jean-Francois Julliard said.

"They show the degree to which the military still cannot be criticised and are still a taboo subject. A civilian should not be tried by a military court," he said.

"Egypt has begun a process of democratisation and it should now be possible to criticise the armed forces like any other component of the state," Julliard said.

Last week, Human Rights Watch called for the charges to be dropped.

It said Egypt's armed forces "should drop all charges against (Nabil) for his Internet posts critical of the military."

"This trial sets a dangerous precedent at a time when Egypt is trying to transition away from the abuses of the Mubarak era," said HRW's Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson.

It was the first trial of a blogger by a military court since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces assumed control after Mubarak resigned on February 11 following 18 straight days of anti-regime protests.

Military police arrested Nabil, a campaigner against conscription, on March 28 after he wrote blogs criticising the military, HRW said.

His posts and comments on social networking website Facebook were used as evidence against him in the trial, HRW quoted his lawyers as saying.

Last year, a military court sentenced another blogger to six months in prison for publishing "military secrets" after he posted instructions on Facebook on how to enlist in the armed forces, his lawyers said at the time.

Another blogger was acquitted after publishing a post on alleged patronage in a military academy.

The military, which has pledged to hand power to a civilian government once parliamentary and presidential elections are held, has tried and sentenced dozens of people in recent weeks for crimes such as robbery and assault.

The trials are speedy and can result in harsh sentences, rights groups say.

 

Saudi delegation in Israel to promote stalled peace initiative

Air raids jeopardise much-needed medical care in Aleppo

Libya loyalists seize ISIS bomb factory in Sirte

Tunisia dissident, Mohsen Marzouk, opens new party congress

Iran destroys 100,000 ‘morally damaging’ satellite dishes

ISIS suicide bomber kills at least 15 in northern Baghdad

Turkey readies first cross-party rally to condemn coup

At least 61 people dead as ISIS claims twin blasts in Kabul

Iraq PM seeks to speed up death penalty implementation

Munich shooting had 'obvious link' to Breivik, not ISIS

EgyptAir flight broke up in midair after fire, evidence suggests

Palestinian village could soon cease to exist

Coalition warplanes strike Qaeda positions in southern Yemen

Turkey extends police powers, shutters over 1,000 private schools

Libya ‘NATO revolutionaries’ urge fight against French troops

Germany probes motives of 'lone' Munich mass killer

Russian warplanes targeted US, British outpost in Syria

Syrians harness Pokemon frenzy to depict their plight

Bodies of 14 'executed' people found in Libya's Benghazi

UN to help Turkey bolster tourism sector

France to supply weapons to Iraqi army

Turkey tensions fester in Germany

Israel official on first visit to Chad in 40 years

EU condemns 'unacceptable' Turkey purges

Iran stops 'terrorist infiltration' from Turkey

Moscow restarts air travel to Turkey

Assad says Erdogan is 'implementing his own extremist agenda'

Egypt's Sisi says 'serious efforts' made in Palestine peace process

43 civilians dead as regime bombards rebel-held areas in Syria

UN pleads for weekly 48-hour truce in Syria's Aleppo

Kuwait upholds death for Iran spy cell 'mastermind'

Iran arrests 40 over 'terrorist' plots

US-backed forces give IS '48 hours' to leave Syria's Manbij

Syria activists urge protests over deadly coalition raids

Kuwait issues ultimatum to Yemen negotiators

Turkey coup plotters go on trial in Greece

Mali renews state of emergency after deadly attack

Turkish President declares 3-month state of emergency

Libya unity govt blasts French military presence

Erdogan critics fear what may come next

ISIS bomb kills 4 in Yemen's Aden

Outrage after Syrian rebel group beheads child

Israel parliament passes law allowing expulsion of Palestinian MPs

Europol warns 'Lone wolf' terror attacks hard to track

Turkey blocks WikiLeaks email dump on ruling party