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Rights organisations condemn military court's sentencing of blogger

ANHRI

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 14 December 2011 - The rights organizations signatory to this statement strongly denounce the verdict issued by the military court this morning, which sentenced blogger Maikel Sanad to two years in prison and a fine of 200 L.E. (approx. US$30), as well as 300 L.E. (approx US$50) in fees to his assigned lawyer. Sanad had refused this lawyer as his defence, and also had refused to be tried before an exceptional court, in adherence to his constitutional right to a trial before a civil judge.

Sanad was detained on 28 March, after posting a blog entry criticizing the performance of the Military Council during the 25 January revolution, as well as after the ouster of Mubarak. He was referred to a hasty investigation at the military prosecution, which decided to bring him to trial before an exceptional military court. The case went on until the verdict was set to be pronounced on 10 April 2011. As his lawyers from Egyptian rights organizations attempted to enter the hearing, they were informed by the military courts chief that the court had decided to postpone the verdict to 12 April. Following their departure, Sanad's defence and family were shocked to subsequently hear of his sentencing to three years' imprisonment, issued in a semi-secret fashion. Consequently, the lawyers appealed the sentence at the Supreme Cassation Court, and Sanad was transferred to the prison hospital as he went on a hunger strike. Amid international pressure by activists, organizations and the media, the Supreme Cassation Court decided to accept Sanad's appeal on 11 October, repeal the sentence against him, and retry him before another judicial district.

Rather than retrying Sanad before a civil judge, he found himself appearing at a new military court last October. Thus, he announced his commitment to his right to freedom of expression, and to his constitutional right to a trial before a civil judge. As he insisted to exercise his right to remain silent during the trial, and despite his refusal, the court decided to appoint a defence lawyer for him. On 23 October, Sanad was referred to a mental illness hospital for his mental faculties to be examined, and to find out whether or not he is responsible for his actions. Having been advised by the hospital that his mental faculties are sound, the court deliberated his case again in more hearings despite his refusal to be tried before a military court, until it issued the verdict today.

"Sanad's case ignores the right to freedom of expression, and the right to a fair trial. The insistence of the Military Council to maintain an exceptional military trial that lacks the minimum requirements and safeguards of a fair trial for Sanad, who only expressed his views, stems from its insistence to gag bloggers. This perpetuation of Mubarak's oppressive policies with his detractors highlights a further deterioration of public freedoms, despite the success of the Egyptian uprising," said the signatory organizations.

"The aim of Sanad's appeal is to prove that military trials for civilians are unconstitutional, and reflect a flagrant violation of important constitutional principles, such as equality in the judicial system, and judicial independence. Such standards are not available in an exceptional judicial system. The decision to accept the appeal and retry Sanad should have enforced respect for the constitution, and referred him to a civil court. The re-trial before another military court proves that the ruling of the Cassation Military Court was nominal, aiming at improving the image of Sanad's unfair trial and calming down the activists who deplored it," added the organizations.
Case history

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