Egyptian blogger still in prison, despite pardon

Celebrations over the Egyptian military’s pardon yesterday of jailed blogger, Maikel Nabil, appear to have been premature, dampening hopes among activists that a months-long prisoner would be freed in time for protests on the one-year anniversary of the uprising on Jan. 25, 2012.

Nabil’s brother Mark, and a handful of other activists, gathered outside Cairo’s Tora prison Sunday morning to await 26-year-old Maikel’s release. Some local media even reported that he had been freed from jail.

But after several hours the prison administration informed the supporters that the decision by Egypt’s de-facto leader, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, to pardon the detainees had not yet been ratified.

“They told us he will most likely be released only after January 25,” said Mark, who has spearheaded an online campaign for his release.

Plainclothes thugs then threatened the group and ordered them to leave, Mark said. Egyptian security forces are known to pay thugs to attack protestors. A local journalist at the scene, Maikel Adel, was also beaten and threatened by police, Mark said.

Egypt state television reported Saturday that Field Marshal and de-facto leader, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, had pardoned Maikel Nabil and 1,958 others convicted in military courts since February.

Some speculated the move was a bid by Egypt’s military rulers to placate would-be protestors ahead of massive demonstrations planned for Wednesday.

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Maikel was arrested in March and later convicted on charges of insulting the military. He had written a blog post entitled “The army and the people were never one hand,” (Arabic) just one month after the military assumed power during an 18-day uprising.

Maikel, while gaining some support among more progressive activists, was still shunned by some who otherwise oppose military trials because of his controversial support for Israel. Despite a formal peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, most Egyptians view Israel as their enemy.

Still, he is widely billed as the post-uprising’s first political prisoner, and he began a hunger strike in Aug. 2011 to protest his conviction under military law. He later intensified the strike, refusing all nourishment except for water before ending it on Dec. 31, 2011 when he was transferred to a different ward.

There are at least 12,000 people who have been tried and imprisoned under military law since the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) took power last Feb. 2011.


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