Last updated: 18 August, 2011

Egypt military pardons blogger after criticism

Egypt’s military said on Thursday it has dropped charges against prominent blogger Asmaa Mahfouz of insulting the country’s ruling generals after a wave of criticism from rights groups.

The military, in a statement on its Facebook page, said it also decided to drop charges against another activist, Loai Nagati, who also faced trial by a military court for insulting the generals.

After a meeting between a general and Egyptian intellectuals who demanded that the charges be dropped, military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi decided to “drop the complaints against Loai Nagati and Asmaa Mahfouz,” the statement said.

Mahfouz was charged over statements she made on Twitter and Facebook.

The statement called on Egyptians to be “responsible” in their criticism of the armed forces, which have ruled the country since a popular revolt ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.

The charges against Mahfouz, who taped a widely circulated appeal for an uprising against Mubarak before the January 25 revolt, increased pressure on the military to end its trials of civilians.

New York-based Human Rights Watch described the charges against Mahfouz as an “escalation” in a crackdown on military opponents, who accuse it of delaying a handover of power to civilians.

The military on Wednesday sentenced two activists to six months in prison each for insulting the armed forces.

Thousands of other Egyptians have been sentenced by military courts in the six months since Mubarak’s overthrow on February 11.

Critics say the trials, which are speedy and can result in harsh sentences, are unfair.