Judge postpones trial of Mikel Nabil Sanad, appoints him a lawyer

A military court on Tuesday postponed to 13 November the retrial of blogger and activist Mikel Nabil Sanad, who is charged with insulting the Egyptian armed forces.

The judge appointed a lawyer for Sanad after the latter decided to boycott the military judiciary and asked his lawyers not to plead in court.

“I was informed in prison that the military judge ordered that I be brought to tomorrow’s session by force, so I am going to be present in tomorrow’s session to assert my stance on boycotting the military judiciary,” wrote Sanad on Monday in a note posted on the social media website, Facebook.

Sanad smuggled the note through his brother Mark, who was visiting him in jail.

The military court had originally sentenced Sanad to three years in prison in April for “insulting the armed forces,” “publishing false news,” on his blog and “disturbing public security.” However, in October, the Supreme Military Court of Appeals annulled Sanad’s conviction.

According to Mark, who attended the session on Tuesday, Atef Qomsan, the court-appointed lawyer, requested the testimonies of four people. Among them are Osama al-Ghazaly Harb, the founder and president of the Democratic Front Party, actor and activist Ali Sobhy, and Rasha Azab, a journalist at Al-Fagr newspaper and a member of the "No To Military Trials for Civilians" movement, which has also announced its boycott to military courts. The fourth witness was named as Ahmed Gaafar.

These were the same witnesses that Sanad's lawyers originally requested give testimony in the trial back in April, a request that the court ignored.

“This is a lawyer appointed by the military intelligence, and we don’t trust him. And we are still taking our stance of boycotting the military court, based on Maikel’s demand,” said Mark.

Mark added that his brother told the judge that he rejects in principle being tried before a military court because he is a civilian, and because the military is both an opponent and an arbiter in this case.

“I know that Mikel is making a political statement, but I am a lawyer, and my job is to make sure my client gets out with the least harm,” said Qomsan. “I am following the same path as his defense team, so that no one could blame me for anything.”

Sanad boycotted the first session of his retrial two weeks ago, asking his lawyers not to attend or represent him in an act of protest against trying civilians before military tribunals.

The judge ordered the transfer of the 26-year-old blogger to Abbasseya Mental Hospital, which then assessed him as mentally sound and sent him back to prison on Thursday.

Qomsan told Al-Masry Al-Youm that he requested the examination of Sanad’s mental health based on the previous defense of his lawyers, who pleaded his irresponsibility for his actions.

According to Qomsan, the lawyers’ defense was based on the exemption from military service given to Sanad after the military claimed he was mentally unstable.

Sanad had previously led a campaign against conscription into the Egyptain armed forces, including his own.

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