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.

 

New government in Yemen plus cut in fuel prices

11 Egypt policemen killed in Sinai bomb blast

US army back in Somalia

Paris, Riyadh 'finalising' $3bn Lebanon arms deal

Sudan orders Iran to close cultural centres

Syria arrests pro-regime activists over criticism

Libya pro-Islamist figure presents rival cabinet lineup

Israel faces mounting criticism over Palestinian land grab

Saudi Arabia arrests 88 suspected extremists in 'anti-terror' drive

New UN chief for South Sudan faces ‘huge challenge’

US air strikes target senior Shebab officials in Somalia

‘Scourge of terrorism’ pushes Africa to intensify cooperation

Relatives of missing Iraq soldiers storm parliament in Baghdad

IS accused of 'systematic ethnic cleansing' in Iraq

UK announces tougher measures against Britons planning jihad

Algeria hosts new round of Mali peace talks

US launches new round of air strikes around Iraq dam

Turkey summons US charge d'affaires over Snowden claims

Turkey new PM promises peace with Kurds

Will UN Human Rights Council investigate IS abuses?

Iran convicts Ahmadinejad's vice president for embezzlement

Fierce clashes shatter uneasy calm near armistice line in Golan Heights

Turkey detains dozens of police in new nationwide raids

Libya loses control of Tripoli to Islamist-led militias

Thousands of Huthis defy UN in new show of strength

Iraq presses fightback against jihadist-led militants

Wounded Gazans need long-term care

Britain to go tougher on jihadist suspects

Libyan Islamist militiamen control US embassy compound

Israel shoots down drone over occupied Golan Heights

Yemen army suffers heavy losses in new wave of Qaeda attacks

Turkish army breaks silence on Kurdish peace talks

Islamic State offers grim inspiration to African extremists

Shebab target intelligence HQ in Somalia

Israel expropriates 988 acres of Palestinian land in West Bank

Iraq recaptures Amerli from Islamic State in biggest success so far

Saudi King calls for ‘strong and rapid action’ against jihadists

Jihadists distribute Yazidi women as spoils of war to fighters

Gulf countries resolve six-month dispute with Qatar

Egypt reduces Badie death sentence to life in prison

AU forces liberate former Shebab stronghold in Somalia

Philippines enters war in Syria!

Kurds put aside old rivalries to battle jihadists in Iraq

Iran says new sanctions cast doubt on US sincerity

US imposes new sanctions on Iran