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Egyptian blogger released after four years in jail

By Ashraf Khalil / 17 November, 2010

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Kareem AmerKareem Amer freed after serving a prison term for insulting Islam and defaming Egypt’s president. Ashraf Khalil reports

Online free expression activists around the world are rejoicing at the news that jailed Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer has been freed and had returned to his family’s Alexandria home.  Amer won the Hugo Young Award for Journalism at the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression awards in 2007.

Amer’s four-year jail sentence actually ended on 5 November, but the Egyptian authorities held on to him for nearly two weeks extra — prompting protests from Amnesty International and others. The Egyptian government — which grants itself sweeping powers under the so-called “emergency laws”— has a history of acting in defiance of its own judiciary. This includes openly ignoring court-ordered releases, or releasing a suspect and then immediately re-arresting him.

So the delay in Amer’s release had supporters worried that the police would simply keep him indefinitely.

Amer was sentenced to four years in prison in 2007, having already served two years in custody, for a package of charges that include insulting Islam, encouraging sedition and defaming President Hosni Mubarak.

His crimes: a series of blog posts that bluntly expressed his atheist beliefs and his criticism of the state of Islamic discourse. His case has already prompted a long-running solidarity campaign by supporters who consider him a “political prisoner”“, guilty of nothing more than thought crime.

Amer has made no public statements since his release. According his supporters, he has requested a bit of quiet and privacy with his family. It remains to be seen whether he will renew his writings, or whether the Egyptian police — particularly the notorious Alexandria contingent — will leave him alone.

Ashraf Khalil is a regional editor at Index on Censorship and a senior reporter for Al Masry Al Youm English Edition

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