Health of jailed pro-Israel Egyptian blogger worsens

Appeal postponed of Maikel Nabil, a critic of Egypt's army; family say his health is declining because of a six-week hunger strike.

By OREN KESSLER
October 4, 2011 20:43
3 minute read.
Pro-Israel Egyptian blogger Sanad

MAIKEL NABIL SANAD. (photo credit: courtesty)

 
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A jailed Egyptian blogger known for his anti-military and pro-Israel views is in declining health because of a six-week hunger strike, his family and a rights group said Tuesday.

Maikel Nabil’s appeal was to be heard Tuesday, but was postponed to next week because the judge said he did not have the necessary documents before him, Mark Nabil, the blogger’s brother said.

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Scuffles broke out between military police and protesters who gathered to condemn Nabil’s imprisonment, and one activist was arrested, his brother said.

Nabil’s voice is a rarity in the Egyptian (and wider Arabic) blogosphere, in that it is consistently and enthusiastically supportive of Egypt’s neighbor Israel. His supporters have hinted that his pro-Israel postings - and not just his statements against the Egyptian military - are the primary reason the blogger is now behind bars.

Reporters Without Borders – which described Nabil, 25, as a “prisoner of conscience” – said he was suffering from serious renal problems, anaemia and scabies. The organization said it had written to the attorney-general in Cairo on September 26 asking to visit Nabil in prison, but had received no reply.

“Maikel is not going to make it to next week’s hearing. He can’t last. Every doctor we have spoken to has said no one can last more than 43 days without food,” Mark Nabil said, adding the family wanted to visit his brother to convince him to eat.

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“Kefaya Punk,” a fellow Egyptian blogger who has visited him in prison, said Nabil’s health is deteriorating precipitously.

“He looked unusually thin. His natural body and face muscles were atrophied,” he told The Jerusalem Post in an e-mail.

He added that Tuesday’s hearing had been postponed on the pretext of the absence of a single document being missing, though that file could easily have been obtained and the hearing proceeded. “If it was not for his belief in freedom ... and non-violence resistance, he couldn’t have survived,” he said.

Nabil is serving a three-year sentence after a military court convicted him over remarks he posted alleging that the armed forces had tried to suppress demonstrators who overthrew Mubarak in February. He was arrested at his home in Cairo in March and tried two weeks later.

The blogger has continued writing from jail, sending handwritten letters to friends who then post it online (http://maikel-nabil-injail.blogspot.com).

A week ago, Nabil urged Israelis to accept the Palestinians’ unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN, writing that such a move is in the Jewish state’s interest. “Israel has the right to live in peace for the first time in its modern history,” he wrote.

“It is in the interest of Israel to end the state of war, therefore getting-rid of its need for the hugely inflated defense budget and taking advantage of this budget in favor for the Israeli citizens who need education, health care and housing more than their need for bullets, tear gas and cannon shells,” he added. “It is in the interest of the Israeli youth not to lose years of their life in a compulsory military service, who can take advantage of these years in building their future.”

Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, Reporters Without Borders said: “This appeal is the last chance for the authorities to show a commitment to human rights, justice and democracy. The court must recognize that he was unfairly convicted by a court martial because of his views and his articles.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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