[By Sudarshana Banerjee]

Maikel Nabil Sanad, the first political prisoner of conscience after 25 January 2011, and the founder of No to Compulsory Military Recruitment Movement has been released from prison in Egypt. Mr. Sanad was freed as part of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi’s pardon of prisoners on the eve of January 25th.

“The end of Maikel Nabil’s cruel ordeal at the hands of the military council is a cause for real celebration,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director. “Yet 10 months of Maikal’s life have been wasted. He should never have been arrested in the first place. His criminal record must now be expunged and he must be compensated for his ordeal.” “The SCAF should have freed Maikel Nabil long ago. It is shameful that they apparently have only done so now to try to avoid criticism on the anniversary of Jan 25.”

After the blogger’s arrest at his home in Cairo on 28 March, a military court sentenced him on 10 April to three years in prison over his criticism of the Egyptian military’s use of force against protesters in Tahrir Square and his objection to military service. After he went on hunger strike in August, surviving only on liquids, his weight plummeted and prison authorities denied him the medication he needs to treat a heart condition. Throughout his trials the military court refused to release Maikel Nabil Sanad even temporarily to receive medical treatment.

In December Mr. Sanad was convicted to two years imprisonment in a retrial. On 21 January the SCAF announced that he would be pardoned, along with up to 2000 other prisoners convicted by military tribunals.

In August, the SCAF admitted that some 12,000 civilians across the country had been tried by military courts following grossly unfair trials. At least 13 have been sentenced to death.