Egyptian activist on trial for 'insulting the military'

By staff writers
March 31, 2011

Human rights campaigners have expressed alarm that a pacifist in Egypt is facing trial for insulting the armed forces. Maikel Nabil Sanad played an actively nonviolent part in the recent Egyptian revolution, which he hoped would lead to a less militaristic society.

Sanad, 25, is reported to have been arrested by military police at his home in the Ain Shams neighbourhood of Cairo on 28 March. The arrest followed the publication of an article by Sanad in which he criticised the behaviour of the armed forces during the revolution.

Sanad's lawyer, Haithem Muhammaden, said that he has been charged with "insulting the military institution and publishing false news about it" and "disturbing the public security". His supporters fear that he will be sentenced to three years in prison.

The arrest has been sharply criticised by War Resisters' International (WRI), an international network of pacifist and antimilitarist organisations.

Sanad, an activist and blogger, has come into conflict with the armed forces in the past because of his pacifist beliefs. He was arrested last November after he sought exemption from military service on grounds of conscientious objection. On that occasion, he was released after two days and later exempted from military service on medical grounds.

He is the founder of the No to Compulsory Military Service Movement. Military service is compulsory for Egyptian men.

Sanad is reported to have been tortured by military police shortly before participating in the mostly nonviolent revolution in Egypt. The article that appears to have triggered Sanad's arrest accused the army of actively arresting and torturing opposition activists during the revolution.

Andreas Speck of WRI said today (31 March) that Sanad's own arrest "only proves his point." He accused the Egyptian authorities of denying Sanad his human rights to free expression and a fair trial.

"War Resisters' International calls on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release Maikel Nabil Sanad and all those other activists arrested during and after the revolution," said Speck, "We call on everyone to make their protest heard with letters to Egyptian embassies wherever they live".


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