Maikel Nabil Sanad is today entering his 50th day of hunger strike. The Egyptian blogger has been abstaining from food since 23 August in protest of a three-year sentence handed to him by a military court on charges of “insulting the armed forces” and “spreading false news” in a blog post published last March.
Sanad had accused the Egyptian military of having conducted virginity tests on female protesters earlier that month — a charge that a senior military general later admitted was true. He had been handed the sentence after being tried in a martial court where, according to his younger brother Mark, “eyewitnesses were barred from testifying in the case.”
Journalist Shahira Amin visited him at the start of October, when he weighed 48 kilograms after having shed 12 kilograms since the start of his strike. “I’d rather die than live as a slave without dignity under an oppressive regime,” he explained to her.
Amin added that Sanad’s family fears he may not survive until his appeal hearing scheduled for today. The hearing had originally been set to take place on 4 October — the 43rd day of his hunger strike — but was adjourned until 11 October after a judge said that documents were “missing from the courtroom.”
Last week, the UK’s Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, expressed concern about Sanad’s situation. In a statement Burt said,
We have raised concerns about Maikel Nabil Sanad’s treatment as well as the issue of trials of civilians in military courts and the continued State of Emergency with the Egyptian authorities. We continue to urge the Egyptian authorities to repeal the emergency law.
Freedom of expression, including freedom of the media, is fundamental to building a democratic society and we will continue to follow the human rights situation in Egypt closely.