Maikel Nabil faces retrial in military court

Sarah Raslan, Tuesday 11 Oct 2011

On Tuesday, Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil's three-year jail sentence was overturned, as the military appeals court orders that the now weak and frail activist be retried

a protest demanding the release of Maikel Nabil (photo by: Simon Hanna)

After 50 days of hunger strike, a military appeals court has revoked the three-year jail sentence of blogger Maikel Nabil and ordered that the young and now frail activist face a retrial.

A date, however, is yet to be set for the activist to stand trial. 

John Milad, an activist from the Free Maikel Nabil group, said that the outcome of Tuesday’s court hearing offers hope of Maikel's freedom. 

"It seems that they're changing their mind," Milad said. "I spoke to the lawyers and they said that Maikel's computer was not used as evidence in court. I expect they will dismiss his case when he is retried."

Though Milad saw Tuesday’s verdict as a ray of hope, Maikel's family was less than pleased as their fear for Maikel's life intensifies each day. 

"Today, I was going expecting that they will free my brother," said Mark Nabil, Maikel's younger brother. 

"I feel that yes, there is change but the situation is very tough," he said. "Maikel has been slowly dying and there is no way he can make it if he continues his hunger strike."

Maikel Nabil, who weighed 60 kilograms before beginning his hunger strike and now weighs only 44 kilograms, previously vowed to continue his hunger strike until he is released. 

The family will be informed of the retrial date on Thursday 13 October, according to Mark. The young activists’s family and lawyers will also submit a request to military officials for his interim release from prison. In the meantime, the family continues to petition for the ailing Maikel to be sent to hospital. 

Maikel's mother, Nagwa Nashed, was in tears when she heard the appellate court's decision, having expected to return home with her boy. The worried mother, who lives with Maikel's father in the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut, said she had packed her suitcase and was preparing to travel to Cairo to bring her son home. 

"I'm afraid that when my son hears the verdict he will die," she said as she attempted to keep from crying. 

"I would like the officials to imagine this is their son and not mine," she added. "When Muslims fast during Ramadan and when Christians fast, don't they get tired and feel weak? Well Maikel's been fasting for 50 days."

Nashed said her son is not guilty of any crimes and he merely expressed his opinion on the internet, without hurting any person or institution. 

"What has Maikel done? He said something they don't like?" she asked between sobs and sniffles.

"Why did they keep only Maikel? Is it because his name is Maikel?" she said in reference to recent Maspero clashes between Coptic protesters and army forces.

"What would they have done to him if he had committed a real crime? The fact that he is still alive is a miracle." 

Maikel's father, Nabil Sanad, said he did not attend the trial so that he could bring his wife once the outcome is announced. 

"At this point, I don't care about the retrial," Sanad said. "I just want to save my dying son's life. That is my number one goal."

Maikel's family has sent several requests to military officials -- among them Egypt’s de-facto military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi -- and the Interior Ministry. All of their requests have gone unanswered. 

"I would like to urge the military officials to send Maikel to a proper hospital until his retrial if they don't release him," he said. "His life is truly on the line. What's the point of a retrial if he doesn't live to stand trial again?"

Maikel's father said the young activist comes in on a plastic chair when they visit him and that he can't stand and can barely speak. 

"He refuses to end his hunger strike at all costs," his father said. "He told me he would prefer to die rather than live in prison under unfitting accusations."

He added that he fears that Maikel will resume a thirst strike upon hearing the verdict, which could cause death as his health is in danger.

Maikel was arrested late March after publishing a blog post titled, 'The people and the army were never one hand,' in reference to the popular revolution chant which has symbolised Egyptian’s trust and faith in the military. The military accused him of "insulting the army" and sentenced him to three years in prison and a LE200 fine. 

"I feel like a dead person without my son," Maikel's mother said. 

Sahar Maher, who was arrested last week for taking photos outside the military appellate court during a demonstration for Maikel's freedom, stood trial on Tuesday as well. Her case was dismissed and she was free to go home. 

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