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An Egyptian blogger went on trial Thursday on charges of insulting Islam and inciting sectarian strife for his Internet writing criticizing Muslim authorities and the Egyptian government, his lawyer and court officials said.
It was the first trial of a blogger in Egypt, where a string of anti-government bloggers have been arrested the past year, drawing condemnation from human rights groups.
Abdel Kareem Nabil, who has been in detention since his arrest in early November, could face up to seven years in prison if convicted on the charges, court officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of court rules.
His lawyer, Radwa Sayed Ahmed, said Nabil had been held in solitary confinement, forbidden visits from his family and lawyers. In Thursday's brief court session, "he didn't look good," she told the Associated Press from court in the port city of Alexandria.
Nabil was charged with inciting sedition, insulting Islam, harming national unity and insulting the president, the court official said.
His defense asked for time to review the indictment against him and the trial was adjourned until Jan. 25.
Nabil, who uses the name Kareem Amer on his blog, frequently denounces the government of President Hosni Mubarak on his blog and is often deeply critical of Egypt's Islamic authorities, particularly Al-Azhar, one of the Sunni Muslim world's top religious institutions. Nabil, a resident of Alexandria, was former a law student at Al-Azhar University.
He was detained briefly in late 2005 after posting an article to his blog commenting on violent riots that erupted in October that year in which angry Muslim worshippers rioted and attacked a Coptic Christian church over a play put on by Christians deemed offensive to Islam.
Titled "The Naked Truth of Islam as I saw it," Nabil said of the riots, "Muslims revealed their true ugly face, and appeared to all the world that they are at full of brutality, barbarism and inhumanity."
Islam is the official religion of the state and Muslims are the majority of the 75 million Egyptians, Christians, mainly Copts, represent 10 percent of the population.
Egyptian security forces arrested a number of bloggers in 2006, though they have since been released. The most recent of them, Rami Siyam, was arrested soon after Nabil but released after a few days.
Amnesty International and media watchdog Reporters Without Borders have both criticized the bloggers' arrests as restricting freedom of expression. The Paris-based RCF has included Egypt in "Enemies of the Internet" report issued in November.
Blogging took off in Egypt in 2004 at a time domestic political activists and the US stepped up calls for political reform.