This year’s overthrow of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak may have been powered by the likes of Facebook and social media, but more recent developments may indicate that at least the country’s military doesn’t change overnight just because people can tweet. Egypt’s ruling military council—which is running the country under emergency rule until democratic elections can be carried out—has sentenced 26 year-old blogger Maikel Nabil to three years’ in prison for “spreading false information” about the Egyptian military. Nabil was sentenced by a military court outside the presence of his lawyers.
Responding to questions about the Nabil case, a member of Egypt’s military council said that freedom of expression is protected under Egyptian law, but it was nonetheless a crime to do or say things that threatened the safety of the Egyptian army.
In March, Nabil had posted images and video clips he alleged showed military police beating protesters during the 18-day uprising that lead to Mubarak’s resignation. The army has consistently denied using excessive force against protesters during the protests.
“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,” said HUman Rights Watch’s deputy Middle East director Joe Stork, in a statement. “The sentence is not only severe, but it was imposed by a military tribunal after an unfair trial.”
Nabil’s sentence will not be finalized unless ratified by the chief of the military district.
The case comes amidst reports that the Egyptian military has arrested and tried hundreds of protesters before military courts. Some Egyptians have stepped forward claiming to be victims of torture and abuse at the hands of the military, and Egyptian media outlets have been warned not to publish any information about the military unless it has been pre-approved.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…