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Jailing of blogger sparks outrage

Groups are calling for the UN to abandon plans to hold an internet governance forum in Egypt.

Egypt's decision to jail a blogger has caused international outrage, with groups calling for the UN to abandon plans to hold an internet governance forum in the country.

The blogger, Abdel Kareem Soliman, was last month sentenced to four years in prison 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 has been in prison since his expulsion from the university 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 Mubarak. Soliman's lawyers are in the process of appealing the verdict.

Organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have queued up to attack the decision; Reporters without Borders has branded it a "disgrace".

Reporters without Borders has called on the UN to cancel plans to hold the 2009 Internet Governance Forum in Egypt, claiming that it "would completely discredit the UN process for debating the future of the internet".

Soliman is the first blogger to be sent to prison in Egypt. Three other internet diarists have previously been arrested in the country, but all were later freed without charge.

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