Reporters Without Borders has issued a joint call with rights groups for Egypt’s president to intervene after an Internet user was sentenced to jail for starting a Facebook group for army recruits.
President Hosni Mubarak was asked to “intercede in the case of Ahmed Hassan Bassyouni, a young man who was sentenced to six months in prison by a military court” on November 29, it said an statement received in Cairo.
The sentence was handed down to Bassyouni “just for encouraging his fellow Egyptian Internet users to enlist in the Egyptian armed forces,” said the Paris-based media watchdog.
RSF said it made the appeal together with the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) in the letter dated December 24.
It urged Mubarak to “do everything in your power to get this conviction overturned, to get all the charges against him withdrawn, and to obtain his release as soon as possible.”
“Bassyouni did not engage in activity that was in any way subversive or harmful to the armed forces,” said the letter. “On the contrary, he promoted the armed forces to Egyptian Internet users.
“We therefore urge you to do everything in your power to get this conviction overturned, to get all the charges against him withdrawn, and to obtain his release as soon as possible,” it added.
Bassyouni’s lawyer Gamal Eid said on November 30 that his client received a six-month sentence and was fined 500 pounds (85 dollars, 65 euros) after being found guilty of “spreading military secrets.”
At the time, Amnesty International urged the authorities to release Bassyouni, saying he was apparently being tried solely for publishing information readily available in the public domain.
“The Egyptian authorities must end the practice of trying civilians before military courts. This is an abuse of the Egyptian judicial system and the right to a fair trial,” the London-based rights group said.
President Mubarak, who is the supreme commander of Egypt’s armed forces, is the only authority in the country allowed to pardon sentences issued by military courts.