Last updated: 17 August, 2011

HRW accuses Egypt military of silencing critics

Human Rights Watch accused Egypt’s military on Thursday of escalating a crackdown on critics, after it decided to try an activist for insulting the ruling generals.

Asmaa Mahfouz, an activist and blogger involved in the uprising earlier this year that toppled president Hosni Mubarak, will be tried by a military court for defamation, a judicial source said this week.

Mahfouz was questioned Sunday for “speaking inappropriately about the military council and for using defamatory and offensive insults against the council on Facebook and Twitter,” the official MENA news agency had reported.

“The military prosecutor’s decision to prosecute the youth leader Asmaa Mahfouz for ‘insulting the military’ is a serious escalation of efforts by military leaders to silence critical voices,” the New York-based rights group said in a statement.

“The Mahfouz case is the latest in a series of moves prosecuting critical expression by the military, which is increasingly setting narrower and narrower limits on what it permits,” it said.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has ruled Egypt since the fall of Mubarak on February 11.

The military council has come under much criticism from pro-democracy activists in Egypt, who suspect it will delay a transition to civilian government.

It has also been criticised for summoning journalists over their reporting and arresting them during protests.

Mahfouz was a co-founder of the April 6 youth movement which had called for the January 25 street protests that led to the ousting of Mubarak 18 days later, ending his 30 years of autocratic rule.