Egyptian blogger faces military tribunal for taboo criticism of army

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Egyptian blogger facing military court

CAIRO — An Egyptian blogger is being tried in front of a military tribunal for accusing the nation’s premier military academy of corruption on his blog.

International human rights groups have condemned condemned the trial of 20-year old Ahmed Mostafa saying the government is trying to silence a civilian for daring to criticize the army.

“Mustafa is a civilian and there are no grounds for trying him before a military court,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement Monday. “These extraordinary judicial proceedings are designed to intimidate anyone who dares to criticize the army.”

The engineering student has been in custody since Feb. 25 and is charged with publishing false news and “tarnishing the military’s image” after he wrote a blog post entitled “The Military Academy’s Scandal.”

In the post, he told the story of a teacher whose son was allegedly forced to leave the academy to make room for a candidate from a more influential family.

Criticizing the armed forces is illegal in Egypt and considered a threat to state security.

“Instead of looking into his accusations (of corruption), the government is trying to silence him,” said Human Rights Watch in a statement Tuesday.

Another blogger, 23-year old Abdel Kareem Nabil was sentenced in Feb. 2007 to four years in prison for insulting Islam and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on his blog.

Mostafa’s lawyer said the trial opened Monday and on Tuesday was adjourned until March 7.

Egypt has arrested a string of prominent bloggers in the past, but military tribunals are normally reserved for those the government perceives as a threat to its existence, such as violent militants or members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

During a review of Egypt’s human rights record by the United Nations Human Rights Council on Feb. 17, many countries recommended Egpt stop detaining bloggers under the emergency law and stop trying civilians before military courts.

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