Reporters Without Borders welcomes blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad’s release late yesterday under an amnesty announced on 21 January for around 2,000 civilians who had been convicted by military courts during the past year. Sanad, who had been detained for 10 months on a charge of insulting the armed forces, was freed from Cairo’s Tora prison late in the afternoon.
His release was reported on Twitter by his brother, Mark, who said he was weak and tired, and had gone home to rest.
“The release of Sanad, the post-Mubarak era’s first prisoner of conscience, is wonderful news for both his family and for all those who campaigned on his behalf,” Reporters Without Borders said. “His release is timely, coming on the eve of the Egyptian revolution’s first anniversary. His only crime was to exercise the fundamental right to free expression, a right often flouted by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces since the revolution.
“The justice system must now overturn his conviction and declare him innocent. The relevant authorities must also be held accountable for his mistreatment and the harassment of his relatives. We will continue to monitor the situation in Egypt closely. On this very symbolic date, 25 January, we urge the authorities to stop using violence and judicial abuse to suppress all forms of criticism and to end the repeated arrests, interrogations and harassment of bloggers, netizens and journalists who criticize the Supreme Council’s record.”
When Sanad’s brother, Mark, and members of his support committee went to Tora prison on the morning of 22 January to await his release, they were threatened and dispersed with violence by plainclothes policemen. Mark said the journalist Maikel Adel was physically attacked and taken inside the prison, where guards threatened to kill him.
The blogger’s support committee told Reporters Without Borders that Amir Salem, Sanad’s lawyer, has filed a complaint against members of the prison’s staff, accusing them of physically attacking and injuring the blogger’s supporters.
Sanad had been detained since 28 March 2011.
Egypt plummeted 39 places (from 127th last year to 166th this year) in the press freedom index published today by Reporters Without Borders, because of the attempts by Hosni Mubarak’s government and then the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to rein in the revolution’s successive phases.