EGYPT: Prominent blogger freed after four years in jail
An Egyptian blogger whose case epitomized the struggle for freedom of expression in cyberspace has been freed after serving four years in prison on charges of insulting Islam and defaming President Hosni Mubarak.
Human rights organizations announced Wednesday that Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, the blogger known as Kareem Amer, had been released from prison. His ordeal has highlighted the Egyptian government’s concern over dissident voices arising on websites and social networks that are trickier to control than traditional opposition media outlets.
“We are deeply relieved and happy to know that Kareem’s nightmare is over and he is free at last,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement. “Nothing will be able to erase his four years of suffering as a result of a totally unjustified conviction, but at least he will no longer be the scapegoat of Egyptian government anger at criticism expressed by bloggers. We will closely monitor the behavior of the authorities towards Kareem in the coming months and we will be ready to report any attempt to intimidate him.”
Amer’s health is “bad but he is safe now," Gamal Eid, head of The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, which represented Amer at court, told Reuters."He was detained for 11 days beyond his court sentence and beaten by officers who did not give any reasons."
The website FreeKareem said he was freed Monday night. Amer, a former law student at Al Azhar, the leading university of Sunni Muslim thought in the Arab world, was accused of posting blogs that insulted Mubarak and for inciting hated of Islam. He had long been critical of what he saw as religious fanaticism and the excessive power of Islam and the state on the lives of Egyptians.
Before his imprisonment, Amer was expelled by Al Azhar after he described the institution as the “university of terrorism.” His release comes as the Egyptian government has cracked down on the media in the days leading to the country’s Nov. 28 parliamentary elections.
-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo
Photo: Kareem Amer behind bars. Credit: Reporters Without Borders