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Egypt blogger military trial criticised

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Several Eyptian bloggers have been jailed in recent years

Egypt has been strongly criticised by Human Rights Watch for trying a blogger, Ahmed Mustafa, before a military court.

The 20-year-old is accused of publishing false information in a blog a year ago, alleging a case of nepotism at Egypt's premier military academy.

Egypt's emergency law, in place since 1981, allows indefinite detention and trials of civilians in military courts.

Egyptian officials have denied that the power is much used.

The only evidence presented at his trial this week is the post on his blog.

The trial has been adjourned to 7 March to give defence lawyers more time to review the evidence.

'Mockery'

There has been no investigation into Mr Mustafa's allegation of corruption, namely his claim that a teacher's son was pushed out of the academy, to make way for the son of a more influential individual who could make financial contributions, Christian Fraser, the BBC correspondent in Cairo says.

Under two international human rights accords, both ratified by Egypt, the government is required to protect freedom of expression.

Yet Human Rights Watch draws attention to a growing list of bloggers who remain in detention.

Kareem Amer was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006, for writing about sectarian tensions in Alexandria and criticising President Mubarak.

Another blogger, Hany Nazeer, was detained in October 2008 under the country's emergency law that was designed to fight terrorism for expressing forthright views on Christianity and Islam.

Last year after a visit to Egypt, the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on human rights reiterated that the trial of civilian suspects in military courts raised concerns about the independent administration of justice.

"The Egyptian government says one thing in Geneva and then immediately makes a mockery of the Human Rights Council's review process," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"No civilian should be tried before a military court, and no government that claims to respect human rights should be prosecuting someone solely for writing about corruption," he added.



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