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Freed Egyptian blogger recounts prison experience

By Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, For CNN
January 29, 2012 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nabil is the first prisoner of conscience in post-revolutionary Egypt
  • His imprisonment sparked an outcry from prominent rights groups
  • A national security official denies his accusations of ill-treatment
  • The 26-year Coptic Christian was imprisoned in March

Cairo (CNN) -- An Egyptian blogger recently pardoned by the military junta urged activists to continue their revolution against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

"I tell the revolutionaries, if the revolution does not continue and you stop, then you will all end up in prison, and maybe even worse," Maikel Sanad Nabil said Saturday in his first news conference in Cairo since he was freed.

The 26-year Coptic Christian had been imprisoned since March last year and charged with insulting the military rulers after documenting their violations on his blog following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

One famous statement on his blog reads, "The people and the military were never one hand"

Nabil is the first prisoner of conscience in post-revolutionary Egypt. His imprisonment sparked an outcry from prominent rights groups such as Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders.

Rights groups called for his release and urged the military rulers controlling the country in the transitional phase to show a "commitment to human rights, justice and democracy."

The head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, pardoned at least 1,900 prisoners, including Nabil, days before the first anniversary of the January 25 uprising hoping to appease protesters calling on him to step down and hand authority to a civilian body.

Nabil described his ill-treatment in prison, saying the experience left him more defiant about his convictions.

"I was not allowed a phone call and was blindfolded as I entered the military intelligence prison and kept in a 1-meter-by-1-meter cell with no lights and matted walls," he said."There was a glass window in the cell only allowing some light through a light bulb switching on and off every minute designed to psychologically damage people and cause hysteria as I learned later from doctors."

Upon his transfer to the infamous C28 military prison, Nabil said he shared a stuffy cell with 100 detainees and witnessed the torture of many prisoners.

"I was lucky due to my medical condition, but I heard loud screams and saw a lot of activists being brutally beaten," Nabil said.

Nabil said he was drugged several times during his incarceration and transferred to a mental hospital after he went on a hunger strike for more than 40 days.

"The revolutionary doctors at the hospital issued a statement 48 hours after my arrival announcing that I was 'free of any mental illness' but they thought I was on hunger strike to punish myself," he said.

Nabil said he told them he was fasting to express himself.

A government official denied his accusations of ill-treatment, and said the blogger was suffering from disorientation as a result of his solitary confinement.

"Such tactics are not used in dealing with prisoners of opinions but possible with terrorists endangering national security," said Usama Emam, a national security official.

The blogger may have decreased his 300 days behind bars if he apologized to the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as instructed by the military officers, but he refused, he said.

Nabil has become a voice of the revolution on the streets and to military officers who have exposed their establishment and defied it.

"Everyone saw the military revolutionaries when they joined the protesters on April 8th. Any military man has the duty of patriotism for human rights sake. I am upset that many activists forgot these guys who are now on a hunger strike and have been discharged and tried in military courts, " Nabil said.

Millions of Egyptians are protesting to demand the end of military rule and military tribunals.

Nabil also fears the new parliament led by Islamists may lead to religiously inspired prosecutions in the near future.

His pro-Israel stance, obvious on his blog, may have aggravated some people in Egypt, including the military.

"They did not accuse me of being a spy but many do not like my stance. I support peace and see that any country that promotes true democracy must deserve peace, " Nabil said.

At the news conference, Nabil raised his prison clothes that he had kept, and said, "I had to wear this blue uniform while Mubarak and his cronies get to wear whatever they please in prison."

The blogger led a march into Tahrir Square after the news conference, flanked by jubilant activists and supporters who chanted after him, "The revolution will rise, down down to military rule "

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