Egypt army sets new limits on free speech - HRW

Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:03am GMT

* Blogger sentenced to three years for insulting military

* HRW says decision is worst hit on free speech since 2007

CAIRO, April 12 (Reuters) - A three-year prison sentence handed to a blogger who criticised Egypt's army suggests the country's military rulers are drawing red lines around permissible speech, Human Rights Watch said.

The military council ruling Egypt said 25-year-old activist Maikel Nabil had used "inappropriate language" and defamed the military, and that his call that military conscription be scrapped would have a negative effect on young Egyptians.

Army officers arrested Nabil on March 28 at his home in Cairo and the military prosecutor charged him with insulting the military establishment and "spreading false information", said New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Nabil's lawyers were told the judge would rule on April 12 but they discovered on April 11 that he had already been sentenced a day earlier in their absence, HRW cited defence lawyer Adel Ramadan as saying.

"Maikel Nabil's three-year sentence may be the worst strike against free expression in Egypt since the Mubarak government jailed the first blogger for four years in 2007," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The sentence will only be final once ratified by the chief of the military district, said HRW, calling on the army to drop all charges against Nabil and release him immediately.   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.