Jailed Egyptian blogger on hunger strike says ‘he is ready to die’

The Guardian reports: An Egyptian blogger jailed for criticising the country’s military junta has declared himself ready to die, as his hunger strike enters its 57th day.

“If the militarists thought that I would be tired of my hunger strike and accept imprisonment and enslavement, then they are dreamers,” said Maikel Nabil Sanad, in a statement announcing that he would boycott the latest court case against him, which began last Thursday. “It’s more honourable [for] me to die committing suicide than [it is] allowing a bunch of Nazi criminals to feel that they succeeded in restricting my freedom. I am bigger than that farce.”

Sanad, whom Amnesty International has declared to be a prisoner of conscience, was sentenced by a military tribunal in March to three years in jail after publishing a blog post entitled “The people and the army were never on one hand”. The online statement, which deliberately inverted a popular pro-military chant, infuriated Egypt’s ruling generals who took power after the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak, and have since been accused of multiple human rights violations in an effort to shut down legitimate protest and stifle revolutionary change.

The 26-year-old was found guilty of “insulting the Egyptian army”. The case helped spark a nationwide opposition movement to military trials for civilians, and cast further doubt on the intentions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), whose promises regarding Egypt’s post-Mubarak transition to democracy appear increasingly hollow.

In mid-September, Saki Knafo wrote: Nabil is not the only civilian to have undergone a military trial since the revolution. An article from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting places the total number at 12,000, and says that suspects have been typically tried in three or four days and have been given sentences of between a few months to several years.

Earlier this year, Asmaa Mahfouz, a prominent Egyptian activist, wrote the following Tweet (translated from Arabic): “If the judiciary does not get us our rights, don’t be upset if armed groups carry out a series of assassinations as there is neither law nor justice.”

She was brought before the military prosecutor last month and charged with insulting the military. The case became a flashpoint in the growing movement to end the military trials, with presidential candidates and political groups criticizing the decision. The military council eventually ordered that the charges be dropped.

But Nabil is different from Mahfouz. He isn’t a star, for one thing. “Maikel isn’t a prominent public figure,” his father told the press during a recent demonstration in support of his son. “Maikel is a normal person and that is why they imprisoned him. Others who had a lot of public support and had similar charges were released. But Maikel is one of the general public and he doesn’t have anyone to defend him.”

There’s also the fact that Nabil supports Israel. He says he objected to military conscription in the first place because he refused to “point a gun at an Israeli youth who is defending his country’s right to exist,” and a section of his website is in Hebrew.

Several organizations are again calling for his release. A statement from Reporters Without Borders observed that Nabil “could very soon die” and warned that he could become “the symbol of a repressive and unjust post-Mubarak Egypt.”

In response, a military official was quoted as saying that what Nabil wrote on his blog was “a clear transgression of all boundaries of insult and libel.”

In April, shortly after Nabil’s arrest, a friend of Nabil’s and fellow blogger wrote an email to The Huffington Post in which he said that Nabil’s sentencing proved “every word Nabil has ever said about our regime.”

“The military council wants to annihilate anyone who questions what it does,” wrote the blogger, who calls himself Kefaya Punk. “That reminds me of how the Catholic church treated its opponents in the medieval ages.”

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