Known variously as Egypt’s Sharansky and post-Mubarak Egypt’s first prisoner of conscience, Maikel Nabil Sanad (right) recently served 10 months in prison for blogging about the military’s human rights violations. His detention sends the same message as the authorities’ prosecution of pro-democracy NGOs, he says: the US should invest in Egypt’s democrats instead of unreliable, autocratic military allies.
Last November, three months into my 130-day hunger strike in Egyptian prison, I was called into the office of a senior general in the military court. I was led there in handcuffs and my coarse blue prison uniform.
As I sat, the general leaned back in his big chair, stared directly into my eyes and smiled. “Last week, I met with some American generals in the Pentagon,” he said. His message was clear: America was on his side, while a liberal democratic activist like me was in prison.
Last March, Egypt’s post-revolutionary interim military government sentenced me to three years in prison for “insulting the military”—meaning blogging about its violations of Egyptians’ human rights.
Activists around the world fought for my freedom. It was because of this global pressure that I was released two months ago. But the military has made sure I know that I can be returned to prison at any time on a whim………..
Few Egyptian revolutionaries believed that the toppling of Hosni Mubarak would lead to such a militarized nightmare. We rose against Mubarak to build a free and democratic country. We wanted the dignity of all citizens respected. Instead, we were killed, injured and arbitrarily detained by the military regime…………….
During my imprisonment, I was thrilled to read the letters from Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Frank Wolf to Egypt’s interim leader, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and me. But as I languished in prison, I wondered how effective these statements were.
In December, the military repeated this outrage and accused 19 American civil-society workers of crimes, prohibiting them from leaving Egypt. The military chiefs eventually allowed the Americans to leave Egypt, though they still haven’t dropped the case.
The fall of the Mubarak regime should have taught the world that there is nothing stable about a military dictatorship constantly violating human rights. The only hope for lasting peace and security, for Egypt and America, are the democratic activists still fighting for their rights.
The full version of this article appeared in U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal.