Two days after blogger Maikel Nabil was secretly and in absentia sentenced to 3 years imprisonment by Cairo military court for 'insulting the army' a letter has surfaced showing political efforts from the U.S. Congress to get Maikel Nabil free.
On April 8, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk and Member of Congress Frank Wolf wrote personally to Field Marshal Tantawi, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, asking him not to sentence Nabil but set him free.
In their letter the Senator and the Congressman point out:
"If growing confidence in Egypt is to go forward, then the government should not take rash, noticeable actions that attract international attention to Egypt."
And the letter goes on to say:
"Dr. Nabil should not be punished for a simple online blog similar to thousands of others online. Dr. Nabil‘s arrest appears to have violated Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Therefore, we urge you to release Dr. Nabil to demonstrate the commitment of both our governments to a new era of human rights and democracy in Egypt."
Despite this letter from the U.S. Senator and the Congressman, Maikel Nabil was sentenced only two days later to a prison term of 3 years - and - which is even more astounding - in a secretive way behind the backs of his lawyers and in violation of legal procedures while he was not in court.
This sheds a totally new light on the question, if indeed the U.S. has any influence over the army that, as is well known, receives up to 1.3 billion Dollars per year in aid from the U.S.!
One should have thought that a plea from Senate and Congress would have had an impact on the SCAF at least to the degree of halting the trial. Nothing like that was the case. On the contrary, the sentence was passed and that even outside legal procedures - as if to spite anyone - including the powerful politicians from Washington - who tried to talk common sense to the SCAF.
The result can be witnessed now around the globe. A harsh, outspoken critical press coverage of the illegal sentencing of the blogger Maikel Nabil by the Egyptian army that crushed any hope for freedom of speech it pretends to value. How did the U.S. politicians say in their letter: "...the government should not take rash, noticeable actions that attract international attention to Egypt."
Well, the international attention, Marshall Tantawi, is secured. Bravo.
For how long will the U.S. continue to pay for this?
The Hundred Twelfth Congress
Congress of the United States
Congress of the United States
April, 8, 2011
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi
Commander-in-Chief and chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt
The Ministry of Defense
Dear Field Marshal Tantawi,
We want to commend you and your command for the calm, professional way you handled the recent transition of power. During this historic time of change, we believe it is critical that the basic human rights of the Egyptian people are protected.
As Egyptians freely express their views in Tahrir Square, they should also have freedom to express their views online. Nearly every developed nation protects Internet freedom because it builds long-term confidence in freedom.
Recently, Dr. Maikel Nabil Sanad was arrested after simply posting Internet comments about the military on his blog. Freedom of speech means little if it only protects speech that supports the current government. While Dr. Nabil‘s statements did not reflect government policy, it harmed no one and represented a very tiny fraction of what is currently said for or against the current government in major media outlets.
On march 28, 2011, your spokesman, General Ismail Etman, stated that Egypt‘s armed forces „are with the revolution, we support it and take a lot of measures for it to succeed“. If growing confidence in Egypt is to go forward, then the government should not take rash, noticeable actions that attract international attention to Egypt.
Dr. Nabil should not be punished for a simple online blog similar to thousands of others online. Dr. Nabil‘s arrest appears to have violated Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Therefore, we urge you to release Dr. Nabil to demonstrate the commitment of both our governments to a new era of human rights and democracy in Egypt.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter,
Mark Kirk - United States Senator Frank Wolf - Member of Congress
cc: His Excellency Sameh Shoukry, The Ambasador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United States
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, United States Secretary of State
The Honorable Margaret Scobey, United States Ambasador to the Arab Republic of Egypt
Update: State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday that the U.S. government is "deeply concerned" about Nabil's sentence. "This is not the kind of progress we're looking for," he said.
Former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Nabil's imprisonment "calls into question whether a democratic transition is under way in Egypt."