Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad sentenced to three years in prison

Thursday, April 28, 2011

His Excellency Wael Ahmed Kamal Aboulmagd, Ambassador to Canada
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
454 Laurier Avenue
Ottawa, ON K1N6R3

April 28, 2011

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is troubled by news that blogger and activist Maikel Nabil Sanad was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for “insulting the military institution and publishing false news about it" and “disturbing public security.” Sanad published an article on his blog in early March criticizing the lack of transparency in the military.

He was charged by a military court without due process, as his lawyers did not have a chance to present his defence. A hearing was scheduled for April 10, but Sanad’s lawyers left after they were told that the hearing would be postponed to April 12. Later that day, news emerged that he had been sentenced in the absence of his lawyers.

The lack of transparency in his trial under a military court is extremely worrying given the past history of suppression of press freedom and free expression in Egypt. On March 22, shortly before Sanad’s arrest, the director of the Morale Affairs Directorate of the Egyptian military, Maj. Gen. Ismail Mohamed Othman, sent a letter to Egyptian publications calling on them not to "publish any (topics, news, statements, complaints, advertisements, pictures) pertaining to the Armed Forces or to commanders of the Armed Forces” without the consent of the authorities to “ensure the security and safety of the homeland." This interference and censorship of the press comes at a time when Egypt more than ever needs to hear the voices of its people and Egyptian citizens need to have access to information about the workings of the government.

CJFE strongly urges the transitional government of the Arab Republic of Egypt to respect Sanad’s right to a fair trial and free speech. We call upon your transitional government to protect press freedom and the right to freedom of expression and access to information of all its citizens.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Mr. Ferry de Kerckhove, Canadian Ambassador to Egypt;
The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

CJFE also sent a letter to the Egyptian Ambassador earlier regarding Maikel Nabil Sanad's arrest.