Egyptian Blogger Sentenced to Three Years

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A military tribunal in Egypt sentenced a blogger to three years in prison for criticizing the army.

The "trial" took place two weeks after 26-year-old Maikel Nabil Sanad was arrested at his home and charged with "insulting the military establishment" and "spreading false information."   

Sunday's sentencing was pronounced in the absence of his lawyer, according to human rights groups, The Associated Press reported. 

The military tribunal based its conviction on a blog, entitled "The people and the army were never hand in hand," in which Sanad wrote about the allegiance between deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and the military and postings on Facebook on abuse.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Assar, a member of the military council, said the problem is in "questioning" the army's intentions.

"There is a difference between criticism with good intentions from a citizen, a journalist or a broadcaster who mean the public good. There is no problem with that," al-Assar said. "The problem is in questioning the intentions [of the army]."

Sanad's lawyer, Adel Ramadan, said among other things, his client posted "news published by rights groups and newspaper clippings."

"The danger extends to all bloggers, rights activists and journalists," he said. Since the army took control of the government following Mubarak's ouster two months ago, military tribunals have convicted and sentenced more than 10,000 civilians, according to Ramadan.

"It sets the military up as an establishment beyond criticism and beyond being held accountable," Human Rights Watch researcher Heba Morayef said about Sanad's sentencing.

"It sends exactly the wrong signal at a time when you are supposed to be transitioning away from abusive practices combined with official denial and failure to investigate," she said.

In a pre-dawn raid on Saturday, Egyptian security forces armed broke up a demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir Square, beating protesters with clubs and dragging many off to awaiting police trucks. At least one protester was killed and dozens wounded, according to eyewitness reports.

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AP contributed to this report.

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