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Egypt: Free Maikel Nabil Sanad – A Prisoner of Conscience

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

When Egyptians took to the streets at the start of their revolution last January, their chant “The People and the Army are One Hand!” was heard around the world. The army, many said at the time, was the protector of the people's revolution. Today, after the Egyptian Army showed Egyptians and the rest of the world it's true colours, after turning its guns on citizens, netizens are remembering the words of one blogger who had warned that the army and the people were never one hand.

This blogger is Maikel Nabil Sanad, aged 26, who is serving a two-year prison sentence for a blog post he wrote on March 7, warning [ar]:

بأعتبارى كنت مشارك فى الثورة منذ يومها الأول ، فقد عايشت بنفسى معظم أحداثها ، و سأعرض فى بحثى هذا للأدلة و المستندات و الوثائق التى تثبت أن الجيش لم يقف فى صف الشعب ولا مرة أثناء الثورة ، و أن سلوك الجيش كان مخادع طول الوقت ، و أنه كان يحمى مصالحة ليس إلا
As someone who was involved in the Egyptian revolution from its inception, I have experienced for myself all its stages. In this post, I will present evidence and documents which prove that the army never stood alongside the people, not even once, during the revolution. The behaviour of this army was cunning the whole time, and it was protecting its own interests only
Freedom for Maikel Nabil

Freedom for Maikel Nabil. Photo credit: Mark Nabil, shared on Twitter

As a result of his detailed post [English translation available here], in which he says that Egypt got rid of a dictator but not dictatorship, Sanad became Egypt's first blogger to be arrested and charged by a military court, just days after Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president. Sanad was sentenced to three years in prison, for writing that post on his blog, which the military said was insulting, making him Egypt's first prisoner of conscience, after the toppling of Mubarak. He is one of 16,000 Egyptians who have been sentenced by military courts since the the Higher Council for Armed Forces became the de facto ruler of Egypt.

The charges against Sanad are: insulting the armed forces, publishing false information on his blog and disturbing public security. In October, the Supreme Military Court of Appeals annulled the conviction but continued to hold Sanad, who had started a hunger strike, transferring him to a mental health facility.

Back in prison, Sanad continued with his hunger strike and his defiance to accept being subjected to the trial of a military court.

Last week, the military court reduced Sanad's sentence to two years – and fined him 200 Egyptian Pounds, or the equivalent of US $33, which Sanad refuses to pay.

This sentence resulted in another alarming development, which his brother Mark Nabil announced last night [ar] on Twitter:

مايكل اضرب عن السوائل والادوية ومش ناوى يفك اضرابة وانهاردة119على اضرابة حالتةالنفسية سيئةونقلوة لحبس انفرادى محبوس24ساعةمفيش سراير#MAIKEL

@mark_nabil: Maikel today stopped taking liquids and medicine and has no intention to stop his hunger strike. This is the 119th day since he has stopped eating. His psychological state is deteriorating and he has been moved to solitary confinement for 24 hours, in a cell with no bed

Sanad, who is in El-Marg General Prison, stresses he will continue with his hunger strike in a note posted on his Facebook page. He writes:

[The Military Court has] sentenced me last Wednesday to 2 years in prison (as if I’ll live all that period on a hunger strike)… They also fined me with 200 Egyptian pounds, I won’t pay it off because I don’t recognize this ruling from the first place and I won’t contribute in funding the occupying army of Tantawi…

Before yesterday, I started a medicine strike and abstaining from drinks, except water. Today, I complete 119 days without food… I don’t intend to retreat form my strike till death. I don’t stand life with the continuous violations against me in prison, as well as, I’m not less that those who lose their lives in Tahrir square everyday.

He concludes:

I won’t provide appeals, pleas or requests to the militarists… I don’t recognize their rule, their legitimacy or their judiciary… I consider myself abducted hostage and a prisoner of war for the military which occupied my homeland.

According to activists, those notes are handed over to family and supporters, when they visit him, and are translated and posted in both Arabic and English on social media afterwards. This same message is posted on a blog, Maikel Nabil Sanad's Writings from Prison, which has all the messages Sanad had sent from his cell.

On Twitter, netizens continue to rally for his freedom, remembering his words and warnings from the military, particularly after 11 months of military rule.

Menna Alaa sums up the situation in a tweet:

@TheMiinz: Reports: 2286 killed, 7811 injured, 324 lost their eyes, 27 virginity tests, 16,000 tried in military courts. It's been 11 months. #Egypt

And she adds [ar]:

عايزة اخويا مايكل نبيل اللي كان مخوف العسكر من فبراير.

@TheMiinz: I want my brother Maikel Nabil back. He has been terrifying the military since February.

Noor Ayman Noor explains [ar]:

مايكل نبيل اتحكم عليه بالسجن العسكري مارس اللي فات علشان كان بيوثق جميع انتهاكات الجيش المصري من قبل ٢٥ يناير حتى آخر مارس ٢٠١١ ‎#FreeMaikel‏

@NoorNoor1: Maikel Nabil was sentenced to a military prison last March because he had documented the Egyptian Army's excesses since before January 25 until the end of March, 2011

And he adds [ar]:

تختلف مع بعض آرائه أم تتفق مايكل أول سجين رأي بعد ٢٥/١ اتسجن علشان حاول يكشفلنا مهازل الجيش من البداية علشان مانجيش نتعب دلوقتي ‎#FreeMaikel‏
@NoorNoor1: Whether you agree with his opinion, or you don't, Maikel is the first prisoner of conscience after January 25. He was jailed because he tried to uncover the army's farce from the beginning, so that we don't waste our energy [on them] now

Mina Naguib laments:

@MinaNaguib90: Still, the first blogger who warned us from the army was #MaikelNabil who is still on a hunger strike no one asking about him! #FREEMAIKEL

And Salah Jaheen concludes [ar]:

ان تموت فى سبيل مبادى خير لك من ان تعيش بلا مبادى …هذا ببساطه مايكل نبيل

@sala7jaheen
: To die for your beliefs is better for you than to live without beliefs. This is simply what Maikel Nabil is about

Further Reading:

Egypt: We are All Maikel Nabil

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

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