The campaigning group War Resisters’ International says it is extremely concerned for the life of imprisoned pacifist blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad in Egypt.
A military appeal court has declared void an initial sentence of three years’ imprisonment for sedition, and has ordered a re-trial of the activist, who has been on hunger strike since 23 August 2011. But the court did not order his release pending re-trial.
In a press release on12 October 2011, WRI comments: “While today’s judgement looks positive on first view, it is a de-facto death sentence for Maikel Nabil Sanad, as he might not survive long enough to see his re-trial, which could be in one week or even up to one month.”
Sanad was arrested at the end of March 2011, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by a military court on 10 April 2011, in the absence of his lawyers.
His original sentence was based on article 184 of the Egyptian penal code, which criminalises “insulting the People’s Assembly, the Shura Council or any State Authority, or the Army or the Courts”, and article 102, “spreading false information”.
Egypt is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, guaranteeing the right to a fair trial in article 14, and freedom of opinion and expression in article 19. The interim constitution of Egypt also guarantees the right to freedom of expression, and the freedom of the press.
In his writings, Maikel Nabil Sanad made use of his right to freedom of opinion and expression. This includes his right to criticise the role of the military during and after the revolution.
On 21 July 2011, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations passed a new General Comment 34 on the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It declares: “States parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”
The sentencing and imprisonment of Maikel Nabil Sanad is in clear violation of the interpretation of article 19 ICCPR, as shown in General Comment 34, says War Resisters International.
Andreas Speck, WRI’s conscientious objection campaigning worker, who travelled to Cairo for the first trial in April, and again for the hearing, commented: “The ruling of the appeal court today, although it annuls the initially sentence, is a de facto death sentence for Maikel Nabil Sanad. Why did the court not release Maikel pending a re-trial? After 50 days of hunger strike, any delay to his release can mean his death, and those who refused to release him [will be] responsible for manslaughter, should Maikel die.”
Sanad is reported to be already suffering from serious health effects as a result of 50 days of hunger strike (and in total 12 days of thirst strike), and has not even been transferred to a hospital where he could be treated.