Amnesty urges Cairo to release blogger jailed for anti-Islam incitement

Egyptian student wrote criticism of al-Azhar religious authorities, President Hosni Mubarak, and Islam.

egypt blogger jail 298 (photo credit: AP)
egypt blogger jail 298
(photo credit: AP)
Amnesty International has called for the immediate and unconditional release of an Egyptian student imprisoned for writing blogs critical of Egypt's al-Azhar religious authorities, President Hosni Mubarak, and Islam. Karim Amer, a former al-Azhar University student and blogger, is the first Egyptian to be tried for writing blogs and is facing up to 10 years in prison. In a trial that resumed last week, Amer is charged with "spreading information disruptive of public order and damaging to the country's reputation," "incitement to hate Islam," and "defaming the president of the Republic." Amer was first detained for 12 days in October 2005 for blogging ( about Islam and the sectarian riots that followed reports that the video of a play believed to be anti-Islam was being screened in a Coptic church in Alexandria. He was charged and released, but in March 2006, al-Azhar University's disciplinary board found him guilty of blaspheming Islam and dismissed him from the university. Last November, Amer was summoned to appear before the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Alexandria following a complaint made against him by the university, and has remained in detention since then following a series of extensions. While detained, Amnesty says, he was kept in solitary confinement. According to Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Program, "Karim Amer's trial appears intended as a warning by the authorities to other bloggers. This is particularly worrying as bloggers have increasingly been posting information about human rights abuses in Egypt." Amer, whose trial opened in January, was charged under Articles 102, 176 and 179 of Egypt's Penal Code. Amnesty said that they have been urging the Egyptian authorities to review or abolish this and other legislation that stipulates prison sentences for exercising freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion. "Amnesty International considers Karim Amer to be a prisoner of conscience who is being prosecuted on account of the peaceful expression of his views about Islam and the al-Azhar religious authorities. We are calling for his immediate and unconditional release," Smart added.