CAIRO — An Egyptian blogger was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for criticizing the military in what human rights advocates called one of the more alarming violations of freedom of expression since a popular uprising led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two months ago.
The blogger, Maikel Nabil, 25, had assailed the Egyptian armed forces for what he called its continuation of the corruption and anti-democratic practices of Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Nabil often quoted from reports by established human rights groups.
“Maikel is the first prisoner of conscience in Egypt after the revolution,” Adel Ramadan, one of his lawyers, said in a telephone interview. “This ruling is a warning to all journalists, bloggers and human rights activists in Egypt that the punishment for criticizing the army is a sentence in a military prison.”
Mr. Ramadan said that a military tribunal had sentenced Mr. Nabil to serve his term at Tora Prison here. His lawyers and his family were barred from communicating with him after the sentencing.
The charges against Mr. Nabil included insulting the military establishment and spreading false information about the armed forces. The tribunal charged him with spreading information previously published by human rights organizations like Amnesty International on the army’s use of violence against protesters, the torture of those detained inside the Egyptian Museum and the use of forced pelvic exams, known as “virginity tests,” against detained female protesters.
The main evidence against Mr. Nabil, who blogged under the name “Son of Ra,” was a CD containing 73 screen shots of entries on his blog and his personal Facebook page, according to Heba Morayef, a researcher in Egypt for Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York.
Human Rights Watch had been calling for Mr. Nabil’s release for days.
“It’s pretty stunning in Egypt’s supposed new era of rights to see the military government prosecuting someone in a military court for writing about the military,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said last week. “This trial sets a dangerous precedent at a time when Egypt is trying to transition away from the abuses of the Mubarak era.”
Mr. Nabil has the unusual political position in Egypt of being a pacifist as well as a champion of Israel, often praising its democracy, educational standards and innovations.
Mona Seif, a rights advocate, said Mr. Nabil may have been singled out as an easy target, partly because of previous run-ins with the military and partly because of his pro-Israel views. Mr. Nabil, who is Christian, refused to fulfill his obligatory military service in 2010 on pacifist grounds and has campaigned against forced conscription ever since, Ms. Seif said.
On his blog, Mr. Nabil argued that little changed when Mr. Mubarak was removed from power. “The revolution until now has succeeded in getting rid of the dictator, but the dictatorship is still there,” he wrote.
Mr. Nabil also wrote, “Even though the army pretended more than once to have sided with the revolution, the imprisonment and torture of activists continued exactly in the same way that used to happen before the revolution, as if nothing had changed.”
This was the third time a blogger has been brought before a military tribunal in Egypt, but the first since the ouster of Mr. Mubarak in February, when hopes for democracy had flourished. In the last two months, the military has brought hundreds of civilians before its tribunals, including scores of protesters for a variety of other acts.
On Saturday, the security services cleared Tahrir Square, killing two protesters and charging several dozen with violations of curfew and a ban on demonstrations.
Ms. Seif called Mr. Nabil’s sentence “a warning message” to the military’s critics that they “run the risk of being imprisoned like he is.”
“The things they charged him with, most of us could also be charged with,” she said. “The evidence and the testimony they used against him are things that I and a lot of human rights campaigners have been writing about too.”
Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting.