An Egyptian military court has sentenced a journalist to a year in prison for impersonating an army officer over the phone, his newspaper and wife said on Thursday.

The ruling against Hatem Abul Nour, a journalist with the independent El-Watan newspaper, was issued on Wednesday, the newspaper reported.

It came as a panel tasked with amending the suspended constitution debated a clause allowing the military to try civilians. The army insists on retaining such powers.

Nour's wife, Wissam, told AFP her husband was arrested two months ago, after he made some calls pretending to be an officer.

"He conducted calls saying 'I am officer so and so from the chief of staff's office' to get journalistic information," she said. Impersonating military officers and soldiers is illegal in Egypt.

His family and newspaper had decided not to publicise the trial before the verdict, hoping for clemency, she said.

"We call on (army chief General Abdel Fattah) al-Sisi to pardon him," she said, adding that they have children and the "ruling is harsh on all the family."

The constitution, suspended when the military overthrew president Mohamed Morsi in July, allowed the military to try civilians accused of "harming" the armed forces.

The 50-member panel amending the constitution is deliberating whether to keep that clause.

Rights advocates say the speedy military tribunals violate defendants' rights to impartial trials.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]