Egypt: Court refuses to release blogger accused of insulting Islam

Abdel Kareem Nabil, 22, who has been in detention since his arrest in early November.

egypt blogger jail 298 (photo credit: AP)
egypt blogger jail 298
(photo credit: AP)
An Egyptian court refused Thursday to release on bail a blogger who is on trial on charges of insulting Islam and causing sectarian strife for his Internet writings in Egypt's first prosecution of a blogger. Abdel Kareem Nabil, 22, who has been in detention since his arrest in early November, often denounced Islamic authorities and criticized Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on his Arabic-language blog. He faces up to nine years in prison if convicted on the charges. In a statement Thursday, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, called on human rights groups to "pressure the government to drop charges against (Nabil) as a prisoner of conscience." Two US congressmen also expressed deep concern about the arrest of Nabil - who also goes by the blogger name of Kareem Amer - and called for the charges to be dropped. "The Egyptian government's arrest of Mr. Amer simply for displeasure over writings on the personal weblog raises serious concern about the level of respect for freedoms in Egypt," Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, and Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank wrote in a letter to Egypt's US ambassador, Nabil Fahmy. The Bush administration has not commented on Nabil's trial, unlike its criticisms of other arrests of Egyptian rights activists in past years. In 2005, the Bush administration made Egypt - which Mubarak has ruled unquestioned for a quarter century - the centerpiece of what it called a policy priority of promoting democratic change in the Arab world. But Egyptian reformists say Washington has all but dropped its pressure on Mubarak amid a need for his support on Iraq and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States was also spooked when Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood made big gains in 2005 parliamentary elections and the radical Hamas movement won 2006 Palestinian elections - raising fears that greater democracy would increase fundamentalists' power, activists say. Nabil, whose trial began Jan. 18, has been charged with inciting sedition, insulting Islam, harming national unity and insulting the president. In Thursday's session, his lawyers requested he be released on bail during the trial, but the court rejected the motion, Nabil's lawyer Radwa Sayed Ahmed said. In his blog, Nabil was a fierce critic of conservative Muslims and in particularly of al-Azhar, one of the most prestigious religious institutions in the Sunni Muslim world. Nabil was a law student at al-Azhar University, but denounced it as "the university of terrorism," accusing it of promoting radical ideas and suppressing free thought. Al-Azhar "stuffs its students' brains and turns them into human beasts ... teaching them that there is not place for differences in this life," he wrote. He was thrown out of the university in March. In other posts, Nabil described Mubarak's regime as a "symbol of dictatorship." _____ Abdel-Kareem Nabil's blog, in Arabic