Egyptian blogger gets two years in prison

Prison sentence reduced after re-trial for Maikel Nabil, prominent blogger charged with insulting the military.

    Nabil has been on hunger strike since August [Al Jazeera]

    An Egyptian military court has sentenced a blogger who criticised the army to two years in prison, after he went on a hunger strike to protest an initial three-year sentence.

    "In the name of the people, Maikel Nabil has been sentenced and punished with two years in prison and fined 200 pounds ($33)," the court said after a retrial on Wednesday.

    Nabil, 26, who had criticised the ruling military on his blog and campaigned against conscription, had been handed a three-year sentence in April in a widely criticised trial.

    This followed his publication of a blog entry called "The people and the army were never hand in hand".

    On his blog, Nabil said the army had used violence against protesters. He claimed it had also used Cairo's Egyptian Museum as a place to torture civilians, and that the military forces detained women protesters to take virginity tests.

    He was at the time found guilty of "insulting the military" and of publishing false news.

    Nabil's was the first trial of a blogger by a military court since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) assumed control after President Hosni Mubarak resigned on February 11 following 18 straight days of anti-government protests.

    Nabil has been on hunger strike since August.

    His brother Mark told the AFP news agency that Nabil "will escalate his hunger strike. He was drinking juice and milk, but now will only drink water".

    Facing criticism

    Egypt's military has faced criticism for sentencing thousands of civilians in military courts for offences ranging from assault and rape to insulting the ruling generals.

    Rights groups had criticised Nabil's initial sentencing, saying that the move set a dangerous precedent at a time when Egypt was trying to transition away from the abuses of the Mubarak era.

    In September, the military denied Nabil was a "prisoner of conscience".

    "What Nabil wrote on his blog is unrelated to opinion; it was a clear transgression of all boundaries of insult and libel, and manufactured lies against the armed forces," the official MENA news agency quoted a military official as saying.

    Military prosecutors also continue to detain prominent activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah over accusations that he incited deadly clashes between soldiers and Christians in October.

    Abd El Fattah had written on his blog that Egypt’s military rulers were responsible for the killings.

    "Instead of launching a proper investigation, they are sending activists to trial for saying the plain truth and that is that the army committed a crime in cold blood," Abd El Fattah told Reuters in October.

    In an interview with Al Jazeera in October, Mona Seif, Abd El Fattah's sister, said he was being used as a scapegoat by the Egyptian military.

    "He was arrested because the military are trying to find someone else to blame for the massacre that happened on the ninth of October," she said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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