[JURIST] An Egyptian military court convicted blogger Maikel Nabil and sentenced him to three years in prison Monday for criticizing the army and raising questions over reform in the wake of revolution, according to reports from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The 25-year-old blogger and activist was arrested [HRW report] at his home on March 28 and charged with "insulting the military establishment" and "spreading false information" for criticizing the army's handling of the revolution that began on January 25. He posted an article on his blog [text, in Arabic] on March 7 saying the army had beat, tortured and killed protesters, including some who were cooperating with security forces. He was then sentenced without a formal hearing and without his lawyers present. HRW deputy Middle East Director Joe Stork released a statement calling the conviction the worst free speech violation in years:
Maikel Nabil's three-year sentence may be the worst strike against free expression in Egypt since the Mubarak government jailed the first blogger for four years in 2007. The sentence is not only severe, but it was imposed by a military tribunal after an unfair trial.Nabil's lawyers from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information [advocacy website] said that they were told the court would rule on the case on April 12 [press release, in Arabic], but the lawyers learned that the court had already ruled and sentenced Nabil on April 11 without their presence.
The blogger's conviction raises doubts about the military's commitment to reform after Hosni Mubarak [BBC profile] stepped down. Last month, the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [NYT backgrounder] unveiled an interim constitution that allows the council to retain control over the country until an elected government is installed. The document vests the military council with presidential powers [Al-Ahram report], including the abilities to introduce legislation, veto existing laws and act as Egypt's representative to the international community. Last November, Egypt released blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil [advocacy website] after four years of imprisonment on charges of insulting Islam and causing sectarian strife on his blog [website, in Arabic]. Nabil, a former law student, was convicted in 2007 [JURIST report] for posting statements critical of Islamic authorities and former president Mubarak, calling him a dictator.