Protesters carry a poster of Maikel Nabil Sanad, calling for his release. (
Protesters carry a poster of Maikel Nabil Sanad, calling for his release. (

Jailed Egyptian blogger on hunger strike

New York, August 31, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to immediately release journalist Maikel Nabil Sanad, who was tried in military court for “insulting the military” and is now serving a three-year sentence in prison. Sanad began a hunger strike in prison on August 22 and was transferred to solitary confinement two days later.

Sanad, who runs his own blog, was arrested after he wrote an article criticizing the military and describing his torture by the military while he was in detention. He also said the military was the real threat to the country–not the deposed President Hosni Mubarak. Sanad, a civilian, was sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting the military” after a trial in military court, his defense lawyer, Ali Atef, told CPJ. In early July, the journalist’s defense team submitted an appeal, but the military council said he might not get a court date for another year and a half, his brother, Marc Nabil Sanad, told CPJ.

“We are concerned about the health of Maikel Nabil Sanad and hold the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces responsible for his well-being,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “This is a defamation case in which the army is not only judge and jury, but plaintiff too. Journalists are civilians and should not be hauled into military court every time they write something that displeases the armed forces. Sanad must be released immediately.”

Sanad, who has been in prison since March 28, began a hunger strike on August 22 to protest his continued imprisonment, his alleged mistreatment at the hands of the military prison guards, and the delays in dealing with his appeal, his brother, Marc, told CPJ. The guards have threatened him with solitary confinement and refused to let him go to the hospital, Marc said. On August 24, the military council put the journalist in continuous 24-hour solitary confinement. Prison officials did not acknowledge his hunger strike for three days, Marc told CPJ.

On Tuesday, Sanad stopped drinking water and refused to take his heart medication, his brother said. He suffers from a heart condition that requires medical attention, and since his imprisonment, he has not been allowed to go to the hospital, Marc said. The journalist’s family tried to visit him in prison on Monday, but prison guards told them Sanad “refused” to see them, which increased their concerns about his possible mistreatment in prison.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawy, chief of the military council, recently pardoned 230 political detainees who had no prior convictions on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that follows Ramadan. Tantawy did not pardon Sanad, the government’s daily newspaper Al-Ahram reported.

“I just don’t understand why Maikel’s treatment is different from everyone else’s,” the journalist’s brother told CPJ. “The military council refuses to give us any answers as to why they continue to single out Maikel–out of the hundreds who outwardly criticize the military.”

On Monday, Sanad’s family and several human rights activists protested outside the Ministry of Defense, calling for the journalist’s release and for equal treatment of all political prisoners tried in military courts, local advocacy groups said.