Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blogging as a criminal activity in Egypt

The conviction of blogger Abdel-Karim Suleiman -- previously reported here and here -- was upheld by an appeals court on Monday. Suleiman is a secular-minded Muslim who uses the name Kareem Amer on his blog. Kareem was sentenced to serve four years in prison for insulting Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and Islam on his blog.

This is a very bad precedent for blogging and freedom of speech.

This from the Gulf Times:
An Egyptian appeals court yesterday upheld a 4-year jail sentence against a blogger convicted of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak.

Abdel-Karim Suleiman, 22, last month became the first Egyptian to be jailed for his writing on the Internet in what human rights groups and bloggers described as a dangerous precedent that could limit online freedom in the country.

“This was not a verdict issued on a legal basis,” said Gamal Eid, a human rights activist and one of Suleiman’s lawyers. “This is a religious verdict similar to those of the Inquisition.”

The court in the port city of Alexandria also allowed a group of Islamist lawyers to file a separate lawsuit against Suleiman demanding compensation on the grounds that his writings had harmed them as Muslims.

The Islamist lawyers criticised Suleiman’s lawyers during the proceedings for defending him.
“You are an infidel,” one of the Islamist lawyers shouted at a member of Suleiman’s defence team after the trial, sparking a shouting match between the groups.

The case against Suleiman, a secular-minded Muslim who uses the name Kareem Amer on his blog, was based on a complaint by Al Azhar University about eight articles written since 2004.
Suleiman accused the conservative Sunni institution of promoting extremist thought and described some companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as “terrorists”.

He also compared President Hosni Mubarak to the dictatorial Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

Suleiman stood at the defendant’s pen yesterday wearing a blue prison uniform. He did not deny writing the articles but said they represented his views.

Ahmed Seif al-Islam, one of his lawyers, said the defence team planned to take the case to the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest appeals court.

He said the lower court’s ruling rested on articles in the penal code that did not justify the sentence. “The problem in these kind of cases is that the people who distinguish between their religious feelings and the law are few,” he said.
More information on the case and how you can help is available on the Free Kareem website.

Thanks to Harry’s Place for tip on the current event and for helping keep this issue alive.

No comments: