Amnesty urges release of Egyptian blogger

AP News
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Posted: Sep 26, 2011 5:42 PM
Amnesty urges release of Egyptian blogger

Amnesty International urged Egypt's military rulers on Monday to release a young blogger and activist who went on a hunger strike more than a month ago to protest his three-year prison sentence for criticizing the military in his Web postings.

Maikel Nabil Sanad, 25, started a hunger strike Aug. 23. His family told Amnesty that Sanad's health has deteriorated dramatically and that authorities have prevented him from taking medication for a heart condition.

Activists are pointing to the case of Sanad and others as evidence that little has changed since the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's autocratic ruler of nearly three decades.

Critics accuse the council of generals who took control of the country from Mubarak on Feb. 11 of operating in ways reminiscent of the ex-president's regime, locking up thousands of protesters in military prisons, where some have reportedly been tortured.

Sanad was arrested a first time in February and again on March 28 and was tried by a military tribunal known for swift and harsh verdicts.

On Monday, Amnesty International said it considers Sanad "a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression."

"Maikel has vowed not to end his hunger strike until he's released," Amnesty quoted his brother as saying. His appeal is scheduled for Oct. 4.

In his postings, Sanad accused the military of loyalty to the old regime. He also made accusations of shocking torture and abuse at the hands of military police during an earlier detention.

Sanad titled his blog posting "The people and the army have never been one hand," revising a slogan chanted during the uprising when protesters looking to the military for help chanted that they were united with the army as "one hand."

Criticized as incompetent, slow and reluctant to make drastic changes, pressure has been building on the military council to hold parliamentary and presidential elections within a clear timetable and to hand power back to a civilian administration without delay.

On Monday, activists launched an online campaign calling for the lifting of the Mubarak-era emergency laws, which the military council recently re-activated after a mob attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

The much-hated emergency laws, imposed under Mubarak in response to the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, empower authorities to detain people without charge and curb strikes and protests.

As part of their campaign, the activists swamped the military council's official Facebook page with postings that read: "End the emergency law by the end of September. ... I reject the extension and I consider it canceled."

Others called for a rally of 1 million people on Sept. 30 against the emergency laws and military tribunals.