Dear friends: The Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad has received a two-year sentence from a military court.
Maikel Nabil was arrested from his house on March 28 after writing a blog post that the army deemed “insulting.” His blog post, entitled “The army and the people were never one hand,” listed some violations allegedly committed by the army since Jan. 25, which he divided into three stages:
- Before Jan. 29 (the day the army took over as a security provider after the police pulled out)
- Jan. 29-Feb. 11 (the day Mubarak stepped down)
- The post-Mubarak period, which started on Feb. 11.
The lengthy blog post is documented by pictures, videos, links to other blogs, and news clippings.
Maikel was originally given a three-year sentence by a military court. Soon after, he became one of the spotlight cases of the No to Military Trials for Civilians group, which is dedicated to fighting military tribunals for civilians, and of which this author is a member. The group (sometimes in association with other entities and with Maikel’s family) organized several demonstrations and press conferences for Maikel and spread the news about him in national and international venues. Maikel’s case was appealed, and the appeal cancelled Maikel’s original three-year sentence, giving his friends and family hope that he would be found innocent and released.
Maikel was retried before a different military tribunal. The case was postponed several times until yesterday, when the new two-year sentence was given.
Maikel is Egypt’s first prisoner of conscience following the January 25 revolution.
The case raised a bit of controversy earlier on, as the blogger identifies himself on his blog as “pro-Israel, atheist, materialistic,” which are not very popular words within the Arab culture. Maikel also has a history of online activism and sometimes unpopular opinions. His blog has featured pro-Israel posts, as well as a campaign he started in 2009 against compulsory drafting by the army.
However, many, including the No to Military Trials for Civilians group, rose to his defense, even if they disagreed with his principles. The case was eventually overshadowed by other issues in Egypt and is now not receiving enough news media attention.
Maikel’s family told Reporters Without Borders that his case will be forwarded to an international court. Maikel had gone on a hunger strike on August 22, though he has been taking juice and other fluids. It is not clear whether he is still on the hunger strike at this point.
Human rights organizations in Egypt, including the No to Military Trials for Civilians group, are planning a press conference on Maikel’s case within the next few days.
More than 12,000 people have been subjected to military tribunals since Mubarak’s fall on February 11. The No to Military Trials group is calling for all those detained or given suspended sentences under military trials to be released and retried before a normal, civilian court.
Many international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have joined this call. Egypt’s potential presidential candidates have also joined the call in a public service announcement produced by the No to Military Trials group. You can help by spreading awareness and pushing others to take action. You can keep updated on Maikel and other cases by following this author on Twitter @RashaAbdulla, and by following @NoMilTrials. Popular hashtags are #FreeMaikel and #NoMilTrials.
Rasha A. Abdulla, PhD
Associate Professor and Chair
Journalism and Mass Communication
The American University in Cairo
— Rasha A. Abdulla is an author, lecturer, and consultant, as well as chair of the Journalism and Mass Communication department at the American University in Cairo.