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Rights Groups Condemn Egyptian Blogger's 3-Year Sentence


Egyptian protesters wave Libya's old national flag and an Egyptian flag as they demonstrate in the Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, April 10, 2011.

Egyptian protesters wave Libya's old national flag and an Egyptian flag as they demonstrate in the Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, April 10, 2011.

Rights groups have condemned an Egyptian military court for sentencing a blogger to three years in jail over writings critical of the armed forces, the first such case since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch Monday criticized blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad's detention, saying his trial sets "a dangerous precedent." In Paris, the media rights group Reporters Without Borders said it was "shocked" by the three-year sentence and urged authorities to free Sanad "without delay."

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information, whose legal team handled the blogger’s case, said the tribunal passed the sentence late Sunday after his lawyers had departed. The group said it had been assured the judgement would not be announced until Tuesday.

One of Sanad's lawyers, Adel Ramadan, called the ruling "a warning to all journalists, bloggers and rights activists in Egypt."

The 25-year-old was charged with "insulting the military" and "disturbing public security."

His blog had denounced the military's use of violence and detentions against democracy advocates and asserted that little has changed since Mr. Mubarak was removed from power. Sanad wrote it was the military that began detaining a number of bloggers and activists during Egypt's uprising, including him.

Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency reported Monday that Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, in a speech broadcast on Egyptian television, expressed regret for a violent crackdown on demonstrators in Cairo, saying he had asked the justice minister to investigate.

Rights groups have accused the army of using excessive force while attempting to remove protesters early Saturday in one of the largest anti-government demonstrations since Mr. Mubarak was ousted.

On Monday, about 2,000 Egyptian protesters defied an army demand to leave Cairo's main Tahrir Square. They are vowing to stay until Egypt holds former officials accountable for corruption.

The demonstrators remained behind barbed wire blockades as the army kept its distance. Protesters have stepped up pressure on Egypt's ruling military to try Mr. Mubarak and members of his government for corruption and other crimes.

Egypt's Justice Ministry Monday ordered the 15-day detention of Safwat el-Sherif, the secretary-general of the ruling party and once one of the most powerful men in the country, on corruption charges.

On Sunday, Egypt's public prosecutor said he would summon Mr. Mubarak for questioning about the killing of protesters and the embezzlement of public funds, as hundreds of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square demanded he be brought to trial.

A statement from the prosecutor said Mr. Mubarak's sons Gamal and Alaa also were summoned in the corruption probe. Also, authorities detained former prime minister Ahmed Nazif for 15 days as part of a corruption investigation.

Mr. Mubarak declared in remarks broadcast Sunday that the allegations against him are unfounded.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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