Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns the two-year jail sentence that the supreme military court of appeals in Cairo imposed today on Maikel Nabil Sanad, a blogger who has been held since March on a charge of insulting the military in a blog entry.
The court had been due to pass sentence tomorrow, but brought the hearing forward with the apparent aim of taking advantage of the ongoing elections to reduce media coverage of the case. The court also fined Sanad 200 Egyptian pounds (30 dollars) and ordered him to pay another 200 Egyptian pounds in defence costs. Citing administrative delays, the court did not identify the exact charges on which he was convicted.
"We are appalled by this sentence, which is an insult to the spirit of the Egyptian revolution, and we are outraged by the military court's cowardice in using the elections to sentence Sanad surreptitiously," Reporters Without Borders said.
"On top of everything, Sanad will have to pay the fees of lawyers who did absolutely nothing to defend him during this unfair political trial. We urge the authorities to overturn this verdict and free Sanad at once, especially as his physical condition is worsening by the day."
Aged 26, Sanad has been on hunger strike for more than 100 days. He was arrested on 28 March after posting an article in his blog in which he disputed the idea that the military had taken the people's side in the revolution. This is the second time he has been convicted on the same charge. The verdict handed down at the end of the first trial was quashed on appeal. Last week, he refused to apologise publicly to the armed forces.
His brother, Mark Nabil, today told Reporters Without Borders that Sanad would not appeal because "he contests the military court's legitimacy." Nabil said he would refer to the case to an international court on his brother's behalf. Explaining that he was very concerned about Sanad's state of health, he added: "Our family will hold the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces responsible for anything that happens to him in detention."
Egypt's first prisoner of conscience after President Hosni Mubarak's removal in February, Sanad is emblematic of the situation since the revolution, in which the armed forces continue to regard themselves as off-limits for journalists and bloggers and are using the same methods as the former regime to censor and intimidate them.
A Sanad support site, a Facebook group and a petition are available online. Internet users can also post on Twitter using the #FreeMaikel hashtag and follow the case at @freemaikel.
In a 1 December report on the Arab revolutions, Reporters Without Borders analyzed the methods used by governments to prevent the free flow of information during the six popular uprisings in the Arab world from December 2010 to mid-November 2011. One of the chapters is about Egypt.