Egypt military urged to cancel blogger trial

'This trial sets a dangerous precedent'

CAIRO - Human Rights Watch called on Egypt's military rulers to cancel the trial of a blogger charged with insulting the armed forces as lawyers expected the court to issue its verdict on Wednesday.
The blogger, Maikel Nabil, could receive up to three years in prison for "insulting the military," the New York-based rights groups said in a statement on Tuesday.
Egypt's armed forces "should drop all charges against (Nabil) for his Internet posts critical of the military," it said.
"This trial sets a dangerous precedent at a time when Egypt is trying to transition away from the abuses of the Mubarak era," HRW's Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson was quoted as saying.
It is the first trial of a blogger by a military court since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces assumed control after former president Hosni Mubarak resigned on February 11 following a wave of anti-regime protests.
Gamal Eid, one of Nabil's lawyers and the head of Egyptian rights group the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told AFP the military tribunal was expected to sentence Nabil on Wednesday afternoon.
Military police arrested Nabil, a campaigner against forced conscription, on March 28 after writing blogs that criticised the military, HRW said.
His posts and comments on the social networking website Facebook were used as evidence against him in the trial, the statement quoted his lawyers as saying.
A military court had sentenced another blogger to six months in prison last year for publishing "military secrets" after he posted instructions on Facebook on how enlist in the armed forces, his lawyers said at the time.
Another blogger was acquitted last year after he published a post on alleged patronage in a military academy.
The military, which pledged to hand power to a civilian government once parliamentary and presidential elections are held, has tried and sentenced dozens of people in the past weeks for crimes such as robbery and assault.
The trials are speedy and can result in harsh sentences according to rights groups.