US lawmakers urge Egypt military to free blogger

AFP, Tuesday 12 Apr 2011

US lawmakers say Egypt's government should not take actions that attract international attention to Egypt and urges release of blogger Maikel Nabil

US lawmakers in a letter released Monday urged Egypt's de facto leader, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, to free a blogger ordered jailed for three years for criticizing the armed forces.

"If growing confidence in Egypt is to go forward, then the government should not take rash, noticeable actions that attract international attention to Egypt," said Senator Mark Kirk and Representative Frank Wolf, both Republicans.

Blogger Maikel Nabil's lawyer, Gamal Eid, told AFP Monday that his client had been sentenced by military court to three years in prison, a move immediately condemned by the Reporters Without Borders media freedom advocacy group.

The organization said Nabil had become "the new government's first prisoner of conscience."

Kirk and Wolf told Tantawi, who heads a military council that has pledged to bring democracy to Egypt, that "freedom of speech means little if it only protects speech that supports the current government."

"We urge you to release Dr Nabil to demonstrate the commitment of both our governments to a new era of human rights and democracy in Egypt," the lawmakers said in their letter, which was dated Friday.

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