Egyptian jailed for blog thoughts

A court in Egypt sentenced a blogger, Abdel Kareem Soliman, to four years in prison last week for insulting Islam and the country’s president.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  February 26, 2007

A court in Egypt sentenced a blogger, Abdel Kareem Soliman, to four years in prison last week for insulting Islam and the country’s president. On his Google-owned ‘karam903’ blogspot site, Soliman had criticised Egypt’s top Islamic institution, Al-Azhar University, calling it “the University of Terrorism”, as well as referring to President Hosni Mubarak as a dictator. Soliman, a 22-year old based in the city of Alexandria, had been in prison since his expulsion from the University last year and original arrest in November. Handing down Soliman's sentence, the Moharram Beik Court's judge explained that the blogger would serve three years of the sentence for insulting Islam and inciting sedition, with an additional year for insulting Mr Mubarak. Human rights group Amnesty International immediately condemned the sentence, quoting Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, its MENA deputy programme director on its website: The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information also condemned the sentence, its executive director, Gamal Eid, stating, "When a young man is punished for having secular views in a country claiming respect to citizens' right to freedom of expression, it is a catastrophe. The democratic countries all over the world have already expelled such charges from their laws". Last June three bloggers were arrested in Egypt but all were subsequently freed, making Soliman the first amateur online diarist to have been handed a prison term. Last November civil liberties group Reporters Without Borders released its annual list of 'Enemies of the Internet' list, a round-up of content-restricting countries, with Egypt making it onto this list for the first time. “The government seems unsure what to do about the explosion of blogs, being more used to pressuring the traditional media,” its report claimed.

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