April 22, 2011

Major-General Ahmed Abd Allah
Director of Military Judiciary
Military Judicial Department
Fax: +202 2 402 4468

Major-General Medhat Radwan
Military General Attorney
Military Judicial Department
Fax: +202 2 412 0980

His Excellency Muhammad Tantawi
Minister of Defense
Ministry of Defense

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the sentencing of Internet writer Michael Nabil Sanad.

According to our information, Sanad (known by the pseudonym “Son of Ra”), author of the blog Ibn Ra, was sentenced to three years in prison on April 9, 2011, by a military tribunal on charges of “insulting the military institution” and “dissemination of false news.” We understand that he has been convicted for comments made on his blog in which he accuses the new government of continuing the corruption and anti-democratic practices of former President Hosni Mubarak. Sanad is currently being held at Tora Prison, and one of his lawyers, Adel Ramadan, has reported that Nabil has been barred from communicating with his family.

Sanad was arrested in his home in Ain Shams, Cairo, on March 28, 2011. His first hearing was held on March 30, when an initial charge of “disturbing public security” was dropped. Another hearing was held on April 4 and the case was subsequently adjourned to April 6.

Sanad was previously arrested on February 8, 2011, before former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. The blogger was detained while participating in the anti-Mubarak protests for holding a banner which read “Civil, not military or religious.”  He was also harassed by authorities last year for refusing to fulfill his obligatory military service on pacifist grounds.

PEN American Center is deeply concerned that Michael Nabil Sanad has been imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of his views, in violation to his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a signatory. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as guarantees that authorities will abide by Egypt’s commitments and protect and encourage their citizens’ right to freedom of expression.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                                             
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee           
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Sameh Shoukry
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: (202) 244-4319

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