Family of blogger on hunger strike demand his release from prison

The family of imprisoned blogger Maikel Nabil is requesting the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to free their son before he dies on the hunger strike he began 35 days ago.

“I’m afraid my son is dying,” said his father, Nabil Sanad, at a press conference held Tuesday in Cairo.

Since 20 August, the first day of his hunger strike, Nabil lost over 15 kg, and he is now suffering from scabies, cardiac arrhythmia and kidney problems, according to his brother Marc.

The prison authorities told Nabil’s family that hunger strikers do not typically survive longer than 40 days, prompting worries that he may die.

“We have medication for him, but they [the prison authorities] won’t give it to him,” said Marc. Nabil is refused visits from his friends and family.

Sanad demanded that his son be treated like other political activists who were arrested or summoned for criticizing the SCAF, such as Loai Nagaty and Asmaa Mahfouz. Nagaty’s charges were dropped, while Mahfouz, whose case is pending, is not in detention.

Since the January revolution, the SCAF has reacted aggressively to overt criticism of its decisions.

Nabil was arrested on 28 March after denouncing the SCAF’s actions in a blog post entitled “The army and the people weren’t ever one hand,” in reference to the popular slogan revealing the army as a friend of the January revolution.

“All he did was document the aftermath of the revolution to prevent a repeat of the past,” said Sanad of his son’s actions.

But Nabil’s problems with the authorities started earlier, on 4 February, when he carried a banner to Tahrir Square asking for Egypt to be placed under civilian rather than military rule. That day, he was arrested and tortured for the following 48 hours.

He filed a complaint with the authorities against his torture, and as a result his blog was put under surveillance by the State Security Investigation Service, said his father.

After his arrest, he was put through an expeditious military trial, and sentenced to three years for “insulting the military.”

According to lawyer Ahmed Ragheb from the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, who represents Nabil, military trials to silence freedom of expression remain an Egyptian reality. “We are facing the same justice system as during Mubarak,” he said.

Nabil’s appeal was rescheduled from December 2011 to 4 October. He remains the only person sentenced for criticizing the SCAF since the January revolution.

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