Egyptian Facebook user faces five years in jail for posts

Amnesty International today called on the Egyptian authorities to stop the trial in a military court of a Facebook user facing up to five years in prison after he published public information on Egypt’s military service. Ahmed Hassan Bassyouni, 30, appeared before a military court Tuesday 24 November charged with revealing military secrets, for establishing a Facebook group on carrying out military service and answering questions on the military without permission. The name of the Facebook group, the ‘Conscription and Mobilization Department’, is identical to that of the official body in charge of Egyptian military service.  However, Ahmed Hassan Bassyouni is believed to have made it clear that his was not an official government website.“It appears that Ahmed Hassan Bassyouni is being tried solely for publishing information readily available in the public domain and often published in local newspapers. If this is the case, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of conscience”, said Amnesty International.“His trial shows the limitations imposed by the Egyptian authorities on the rights to freedom of expression and access to information” the organization added.Ahmed Hassan Bassyouni was arrested on 30 October following an interview about his Facebook group on Egyptian radio. After the interview, he was called back to the studio where military investigation officers were waiting to arrest him. He was then detained, interrogated and kept in military custody until he appeared before a military prosecutor on 6 November.  There he was further interrogated, and remanded in custody.He was later referred to trial before the al-Haram Military Court, and the first session was held on 20 November.  Ahmed Hassan Bassyouni’s case has now been postponed to 29 November. “The Egyptian authorities must end the practice of trying civilians before military courts.  This is an abuse of the Egyptian judicial system and the right to a fair trial. These trials are fundamentally unfair,” said Amnesty International.Ahmed Hassan Bassyouni’s trial comes amid a widespread crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on dissent and criticism in the media, and on political opposition and human rights activists, in the run-up to Egypt’s parliamentary elections on 28 November.