August 23, 2011

Egyptian blogger Nabil jailed by army starts hunger strike

On March 28 at night the army arrested blogger Maikel Nabil for blogging about the army and documenting the atrocities against peaceful protesters. Two weeks later and against all international appeals and outcries Nabil was sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labor and a fine of 200 L.E. for "offending the army". No appeal by human rights groups or even the U.S. government - a firm ally of the Egyptian army - could alter this and he was immediately transferred to prison.

Human Rights Watch called the sentence
"the worst strike against free expression in Egypt since the Mubarak government jailed the first blogger for four years in 2007".
Yet the SCAF found no fault with this, sending a clear signal that it couldn't care less about freedom of expression in Egypt. Amazing, as it is the same SCAF that put up a Constitutional Referendum to vote on, containing explicitly freedom of expression and opinion. In a press conference with General Mamdouh Shaheen and General Ismail Etman it was pointed out that the Constitutional Interim Declaration that resulted from the referendum prevents arrests or detentions without legal basis and ensures freedom of the press as well as freedom of belief and opinion.

Does the SCAF not read its own declaration? How then fits the arrest and sentencing of a blogger into their own declaration? - The SCAF doesn't answer.

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.

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. He has been in jail ever since.

Design by Kirolos Nagy / @Kiroz_

Strong protests show now reaction from SCAF

"The sentence is not only severe, but it was imposed by a military tribunal after an unfair trial", said Joe Stork from Human Rights Watch. And Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW warned: "This trial sets a dangerous precedent at a time when Egypt is trying to transition away from the abuses of the Mubarak era."

Reporters Without Borders were shocked at the sentencing of Maikel Nabil: "The circumstances of this blogger’s arrest and the conduct of his trial demonstrate a complete lack of consideration by the military for the most basic principles of international law."

But the Generals of the Army are unwilling to abide by such laws. To them criticism of the army is a crime that must be punished. Since Maikel Nabil's arrest and conviction several journalists, bloggers, twitter and facebook users have come under surveillance, have been summoned to the military prosecutor and threatened with military trials. Strong protests from activists in Egypt and abroad have so far managed to stop the military going through with their crackdown. But all the national and international outcries over the blogger's sentence have so far shown no reaction from the SCAF.

Now Maikel Nabil has started a hunger strike today protesting against his treatment and the attack against freedom of opinion that is guaranteed in a Constitutional Interim Declaration the SCAF itself is not willing to respect. The hope remains that this time more activists will show solidarity with Nabil hopefully having understood by now that when one blogger is thrown in jail, others may soon follow. It could be them - it could be us - it could be you - tomorrow.

Design by Kirolos Nagy / @Kiroz_

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