PARLIAMENT HILL—Maikel Nabil Sanad was a guiding light in the Arab Spring, a political activist and blogger with a history of challenging the Egyptian authorities.
Now in an Egyptian jail, his life is hanging by a thread, and Liberal justice critic Irwin Cotler, joined by other MPs in Canada and beyond, is issuing an urgent call for his release from prison.
The 26-year-old blogger is just a few months into a three-year sentence handed down by a military tribunal with a 93 percent conviction rate. That rate would be higher, noted Cotler, but some cases are still pending.
On Thursday, when Cotler issued the call during a press conference on Parliament Hill, Sanad was on the 87th day of a hunger strike to protest his arbitrary imprisonment. His crime: an article saying that the military was not on the side of the people.
Though blunt, Sanad’s views are hardly without evidence, noted Cotler.
“More people have been arrested and tried by the military tribunal, over 11,000, than in the 30 years of the Mubarak reign.”
Sanad has a right to an impartial and independent tribunal, said Cotler.
“The military tribunal is neither impartial, nor independent; it is in effect an agency of government.”
A military tribunal does not consider evidence, allow effective council, nor grant appeals, said Cotler.
NDP human rights critic Wayne Marston joined Cotler at the conference, and Conservatives on the human rights subcommittee have also voiced support.
That committee passed a unanimous motion this week calling on the Canadian government to push for Sanad’s release. The motion all urged Egyptian authorities to immediately release Sanad and drop all charges against him.
Cotler has been asked by Sanad’s family to act as the blogger’s international counsel.
Amnesty International has declared Sanad a prisoner of conscience and numerous groups around the world are taking up the cause.