A prominent Egyptian blogger, Maikel Nabil, has been sentence to three years in prison after being convicted of “insulting the military and publishing false news,” according to his attorney.
A court of the Egyptian military, which has ruled the country since the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak in February, imposed the sentence, quashing hopes that the country would enjoy new freedoms in the post-Mubarak era. Egypt has a large and active blogging community.
We are in a state of shock because [on Sunday] they told us the decision would be on Tuesday, so the family and lawyer left. Afterwards the court announced its decision, said Gamal Eid, a lawyer who heads the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and was Nabil’s attorney.
Eid also told the Agence France Presse: “The lawyers were not present, the verdict was handed out almost in secret.
Eid said he will appeal the sentence.
Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded that charges against Nabil be dropped.
This trial sets a dangerous precedent at a time when Egypt is trying to transition away from the abuses of the Mubarak era, Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East and North Africa director, said.
Reporters Without Borders also condemned the verdict.
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 criticized and are still a taboo subject. A civilian should not be tried by a military court. Egypt has begun a process of democratization and it should now be possible to criticize the armed forces like any other component of the state.
He also described Nabil as the new government's first prisoner of conscience.
Moreover, Nabil’s trial and conviction occurred very quickly -- he was arrested by military police on March 28 for writing blogs that criticized the military for its activities during the anti-government protests.
He is believed to be the first blogger tried and convicted in Egypt.