A pro-Israel Egyptian blogger has been freed after nearly 10 months in prison
for defaming the military, his brother said Tuesday.
Maikel Nabil was
pardoned last week along with nearly 2,000 other Egyptians convicted in military
courts since president Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in February. On Tuesday, the
head of the ruling military council said a three-decade-old state of emergency
would be lifted “except in certain cases” in a further sign the army is buckling
to widespread pressure to shift Egypt to civilian control.
Islamist-led parliament meets for first time in Cairo
had no role in gas deal with
brother, Mark, tweeted a photo of the blogger, taken shortly after his release,
making a “V” sign for victory.
“Forgive us guys, but Maikel is tired and
can’t take phone calls,” his brother told followers on the social media site,
saying the blogger felt slightly ill and would be taken home to rest. Nabil was
said to have been on a hunger strike for months to protest his treatment by
military authorities and in prison.
The 26-year-old was detained March 30
and 11 days later was sentenced by a military court to three years in prison for
“insulting the military” and “spreading false information.” To supporters, Nabil
represented the first of thousands of prisoners of conscience tried by military
courts over the past year. To opponents, however, he is an enemy of the state
not only for his remarks against the military but also for calling for
normalization with Israel.
In late 2010 Nabil wrote in his blog he would
refuse to serve out his compulsory military service if doing so meant he would
have to point a gun at Israeli soldiers carrying out their own mandatory
In February he posted a video clip pleading with Israelis to
support the movement to oust Mubarak.
“I’m calling for solidarity from my
Israeli friends with the Egyptian revolution. I believe that democracy and human
rights and women’s rights are basic Israeli values,” he said. Three days before
his arrest Nabil wrote he had been trying to get an Israeli visa for months but
had been refused.
Nabil’s supporters – even those who oppose
normalization with the Jewish state – say his support for Israel made the
blogger an easy target for the military.
Presidential elections are
scheduled for June, but many Egyptians fear the military will do everything in
its power to retain the nearimmunity it enjoyed for nearly six decades. They
want assurances from the army that it will return to the barracks and allow for
a full transfer to civilian rule.
On Tuesday, Field Marshal Mohamed
Hussein Tantawi said in a televised address that Egypt’s state of emergency
would be lifted, except in unspecified cases of “thuggery.”
At least one
lawmaker said the move did not go far enough.
“This is not a real
cancellation of the state of emergency,” said Essam Sultan, a newly elected
member of parliament from the Wasat Party, an Islamist group.
law designates the ending of the state of emergency completely or enforcing it
completely, nothing in between.”
The liberal youth who led last year’s
anti-Mubarak revolution now feel threatened not only by the military, but by
Islamist movements who were the primary beneficiaries of parliamentary elections
held over the last few months.
Amnesty International released a damning
report Tuesday revealing that most of the country’s main political parties have
hedged or flatly refused to sign a human rights manifesto the nonprofit group
circulated in November.
The London-based organization wrote to 54 parties
asking them to sign on to the 10-point document, which included calls for
guarantees on freedom of religion, women’s rights, aid to the poor and abolition
of the death penalty.
The only parties to sign up to all of the
document’s provisions, it said, were the Egyptian Social Democratic Party – a
member of the liberal Egyptian Bloc – and the leftist Popular Socialist Alliance
It said the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, the
biggest winner in parliamentary elections, failed to issue a substantive
response. Al- Nour, a hardline Salafist movement that came in second at the
polls, agreed orally to all pledges with the exception of the abolition of the
death penalty and protection of women’s rights.
“With the first session
of the new parliament sitting this week, it is encouraging that so many of the
major parties engaged with us and were prepared to sign up to ambitious pledges
for change on combating torture, protecting slum residents’ rights and ensuring
fair trials,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s interim Middle East
and North Africa director. “But it is disturbing that a number of parties
refused to commit to equal rights for women. With a handful of women taking up
seats in the new parliament, there remain huge obstacles to women playing a full
role in Egyptian political life.
“We challenge the new parliament to use
the opportunity of drafting the new constitution to guarantee all of these
rights for all people in Egypt. The cornerstone must be non-discrimination and
gender equality,” he said.
Nearly all of the 12 parties that responded
agreed to all of the first seven points of the manifesto, including commitments
on civil and political rights, ending the state of emergency, combating torture,
upholding freedom of expression and association, ensuring fair trials and
investigating abuses committed under Mubarak.
Amnesty also secured
pledges from nearly all parties to address the rights of the poor and to deliver
economic, social and cultural rights for all. The eighth pledge, to end
discrimination, was agreed to by most parties but several said they could not
sign on to an end to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and
gender identity. At least two parties said the issue of discrimination against
Coptic Christians, including limitations against building churches, has been
A number of parties expressed reservations over the pledge
to uphold women’s rights, which included granting equal rights in marriage,
divorce, child custody and inheritance. Several parties invoked Islamic law to
explain why they could not agree to the provisions.
expressed reservations over the final point calling for the abolition of the
death penalty, either stating that it was in contradiction to Islam or that they
were continuing to study the issue.
Reuters contributed to this