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An Egyptian man who criticised the ruling military on his blog has been sentenced to two years in prison after going on a hunger strike in protest against his initial three-year sentence.
“In the name of the people, Michael Nabil has been sentenced and punished with two years in prison and fined 200 pounds ($33),” the court said after a retrial.
As well as using his blog to criticise the military, Nabil encouraged Egyptians to avoid the draft. At the time, the trial was widely criticised.
The blogger has reportedly been on hunger strike since August, although his brother says he will now escalate it. “He was drinking juice and milk, but now will only drink water,” says Nabil.
Heba Morayef, a researcher for Human Rights Watch — an organisation “dedicated to defending and protecting human rights” around the globe — said the new sentence was a disappointment, although Nabil was likely to spend a year in prison because of the time he served.
“There are times when the military has used these trials as a face-saving measure to release someone improperly detained,” said Morayef, who is based in Cairo.
“The military was offering another option, that they would release him in return for an apology,” she said. “But because of his principle — he didn’t recognise the legitimacy of military trials — it has turned into a battle of wills.”
The Egyptian military has been widely criticised for the nature of its rule, following the ousting of long-time president Hosni Mubarak.
It denies, however, that Nabil is “a prisoner of conscience”.
“What Nabil wrote on his blog is unrelated to opinion; it was a clear transgression of all boundaries of insult and libel, and manufactured lies against the armed forces,” the official MENA news agency quoted a military official as saying.
Ironically, it was the arrest of another blogger, Wael Ghonim, that sparked the January 25 movement that eventually saw Mubuarak overthrown. The movement went on to become one of Twitter’s top trending hashtags of 2011.
Nabil’s cause is unlikely to be the spark of a similarly popular uprising. Nabil’s views are reportedly unpopular among the wider population in Egypt. He is vocally supportive of Israel and, as a pacifist, refused to serve in the military.