CAIRO — A media watchdog on Saturday called for the immediate release of a blogger sentenced by Egypt's military to three years in jail, warning he might die after he stopped eating and drinking.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in a statement that Maikel Nabil Sanad, who began his hunger strike on August 23 and more recently started refusing to drink, "could very soon die."
"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would have to take full responsibility. Held for exercising his right to freedom of expression, Sanad must not become the symbol of a repressive and unjust post-Mubarak Egypt," it said.
A military court convicted Nabil in April on charges of insulting the armed forces, prompting US lawmakers to send a letter to the military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, demanding his release.
In response to the watchdog's statement, the military denied Nabil was a "prisoner of conscience" and said he could appeal his conviction.
"What Nabil wrote on his blog is unrelated to opinion; it was a clear transgression of all boundaries of insult and libel, and the manufacturing of lies against the armed forces," the official MENA news agency quoted a military official as saying.
The official added Nabil had also called on people to refuse the mandatory military service which most men have to do.
Nabil's trial was the first of a blogger since the military took charge of the country in February following president Hosni Mubarak's overthrow by a nationwide uprising.
The military, which has tried thousands of civilians since then, mostly for crimes such as theft and assault, faces growing pressure to refer civilian cases to normal courts. It has also jailed activists arrested in protests.
Opponents of military trials say they are unfair and result in harsh sentences.
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