April 6, 2011 / 7:16 PM / 9 years ago

Egypt blogger arrest sets "dangerous precedent"-HRW

* Maikel Nabil faces up to 3 years in jail if found guilty

* Nabil charges include “insulting the military”

CAIRO, April 6 (Reuters) - Human Rights Watch urged Egypt’s ruling military council on Wednesday to drop charges against a blogger arrested for criticising the armed forces, saying it set a “dangerous precedent”.

Rights activists suspect anything from hundreds to thousands of Egyptians are being held and tried before military courts behind closed doors after the overthrow in February of President Hosni Mubarak.

Maikel Nabil faces up to three years in prison if found guilty of “insulting the military”. The verdict was due on Wednesday but there was no word on the trial’s outcome.

“It’s pretty stunning in Egypt’s supposed new era of rights to see the military government prosecuting someone in a military court for writing about the military,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“This trial sets a dangerous precedent at a time when Egypt is trying to transition away from the abuses of the Mubarak era,” she said.

Nabil was taken from his home by five military officers early on March 28 and charged with “insulting the military establishment” and “spreading false information,” his brother told Human Rights Watch.

In a blog entry on March 8, Nabil questioned the military’s motives and posted photographs and video clips of protesters whom he said had been beaten by military police during the popular uprising that led to the president’s ousting.

“In truth, until now the revolution was achieved by getting rid of the dictator (Mubarak), but dictatorship is still present,” Nabil wrote.

“I will set out in this post signs and the evidence which prove that throughout the revolution the army were not once on the people’s side and that the army’s conduct was deceitful all along and it was protecting interests,” he wrote.

Egypt’s army has denied accusations that it abused pro-democracy demonstrators during the popular uprising.

The evidence presented against Nabil consisted of a CD with details of his blog postings and Facebook comments in recent months, according to one of his defence lawyers, Maged Hanna.

Another defence lawyer, Ali Atef, told HRW the prosecutor had cited a series of comments on Nabil’s Facebook and blog pages in which he criticised the army for conducting virginity tests on female detainees and called for an end to conscription. (Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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