EGYPT: Blogger faces charges of defaming military
A blogger stood before a military court this week, facing charges of publishing false information about the Egyptian armed forces and destabilizing people's confidence in the military establishment, the Arabian Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reported.
The trial, which was adjourned Monday for 24 hours, came four days after 20-year-old engineering student Ahmed Mustafa was arrested in his hometown of Kafr El Sheikh in the Nile Delta.
A statement released by ANHRI said Mustafa was summoned to the military prosecutor's office after a report was filed against him by the Military Academy, accusing him of posting an article containing misleading information about the academy in February 2009.
Mustafa once wrote on his Arabic-language blog, "Masry Mathoun," or "A Crushed Egyptian," that a student was "arbitrarily" forced to quit the Military Academy, a claim described as false by the prosecution.
Assigning the case to a non-civil military court has been strongly condemned by ANHRI and other human rights watchdogs in Egypt.
"We express our extreme shock at the decision to refer the blogger to a military court after an investigation, which was the fastest of its kind," an ANHRI statement said.
"The network stresses the illegitimacy of criminal prosecutions in publication cases, not to mention military trials that lack basic fairness conditions."
The head of the Egyptian Assn. for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Emad Mubarak, said "the real problem here is that Mustafa is a civilian whose case is being heard by a military court and not a regular civil court."
Mubarak added that Egyptian authorities have been putting a lot of pressure on political bloggers, especially after a few of them unveiled some of the ruling regime's human rights violations.
Egyptian military courts' rulings can't be appealed or overturned.
Mustafa is not the first blogger to be put on trial for something he wrote. Blogger Kareem Amer has been in prison since 2006 for criticizing religious authoritarianism and gender discrimination.
In November 2009, blogger Wael Abbas was sentenced to six months in jail for cutting an Internet cable, a verdict that was considered "ridiculous" by Reporters Without Borders before it was canceled earlier this month.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Egyptian soldiers on parade. Credit: Agence France-Presse