Egypt to re-try Copt army critic on hunger strike

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 11, 2011 12:04 PM
Egypt to re-try Copt army critic on hunger strike

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian military court accepted on Tuesday an appeal for a re-trial of a Coptic Christian blogger who was jailed on charges of spreading false information about the country's military in a case that drew criticism from rights groups around the world.

Michael Nabil, 25, began a hunger strike on August 23 to protest against his conviction for posting remarks saying the army tried to help quell an uprising that unseated President Hosni Mubarak in February 11.

The court's decision follows weekend clashes between Coptic Christians and military police in which 25 people were killed in the worst violence since the fall of Mubarak.

Nabil's family told rights group Amnesty International last week that the activist's health had deteriorated and the authorities had prevented him from taking medication. They said he was suffering from renal problems, anemia and scabies.

"With this decision ... Michael Nabil will be retried before a new panel," the military appeals court said.

Nabil, who was arrested at his home in Cairo in March, has served five months of his three-year sentence.

Activists and rights groups say Nabil's case highlights the army's heavy-handed approach against dissenters who criticize top generals for using tactics reminiscent of Mubarak's regime.

Reporters Without Borders said it tried to visit Nabil but was not given permission. His family says Nabil has been drinking water only.

Activists have condemned the army's use of military courts to try thousands of civilians since Mubarak's overthrow. The courts sit behind closed doors and are known for handing down swift verdicts that are often seen as unfair.

Angry protesters and politicians accuse the army of aggravating social tensions by failing to quell the street violence which erupted on Sunday.

(Writing by Marwa Awad)