Egypt to re-try pro-Israel army critic on hunger strike

Michael Nabil, 25, is hunger striking to protest his conviction for remarks saying army tried to help quell anti-Mubarak protests.

MAIKEL NABIL SANAD (photo credit: courtesty)
(photo credit: courtesty)
CAIRO - An Egyptian military court accepted on Tuesday an appeal for a re-trial of a Coptic Christian blogger who was jailed on charges of spreading false information about the country's military in a case that drew criticism from rights groups around the world.
Michael Nabil, 25, began a hunger strike on Aug. 23 to protest against his conviction for posting remarks saying the army tried to help quell an uprising that unseated President Hosni Mubarak in Feb. 11.
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The court's decision follows weekend clashes between Coptic Christians and military police in which 25 people were killed in the worst violence since the fall of Mubarak.
Nabil's family told rights group Amnesty International last week that the activist's health had deteriorated and the authorities had prevented him from taking medication. They said he was suffering from renal problems, anaemia and scabies.
"With this decision ... Michael Nabil will be retried before a new panel," the military appeals court said.
Nabil, who was arrested at his home in Cairo in March, has served five months of his three-year sentence.
Activists and rights groups say Nabil's case highlights the army's heavy-handed approach against dissenters who criticize top generals for using tactics reminiscent of Mubarak's regime.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 said it tried to visit Nabil but was not given permission. His family says Nabil has been drinking water only.
Activists have condemned the army's use of military courts to try thousands of civilians since Mubarak's overthrow. The courts sit behind closed doors and are known for handing down swift verdicts that are often seen as unfair.
Oren Kessler contributed to this report.