22 February 2008
One year in prison for Egyptian blogger

UK demonstration demanding the release of Karim Amer

One year ago, Egyptian blogger Karim Amer was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for the "crime" of publishing on the internet material critical of Islam and President Mubarak.

The then 23-year-old former al-Azhar University student was sentenced on 22 February 2007 and the Court of Appeal confirmed the sentence on 12 March of the same year. Amnesty International described the sentence as yet another slap in the face of freedom of expression in Egypt.

Amnesty International considers Karim Amer to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned on account of the peaceful expression of his views. The organisation condemned the four-year sentence he received and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Karim Amer, who is serving his prison sentence in Borg Al-Arab Prison, Alexandria, wrote in his letters to one of his legal counsels that he was beaten on 24 October 2007.

Karim Amer said he was punched and kicked by a prisoner and a prison guard under the supervision of a prison investigations officer. One of his teeth was broken and he was badly bruised. He was then taken to a disciplinary cell, hand-cuffed and his legs tied up and beaten again by the same two individuals on the orders of the prison investigations officer.

He also wrote that another prisoner unknown to him was brought to the cell, stripped naked and beaten by the same individuals in his presence. He was then threatened that he would receive the same treatment if he intervened again in the prisons’ affairs. Karim Amer said he advised Eritreans in the prison to keep their money after he had discovered that one Eritrean cell-mate to whom he serves as an interpreter lost US$100.

Karim Amer wrote that he was examined by the prison’s doctor, but there was no mention of his broken tooth in the medical report. He also said that he was not allowed to file a complaint about what happened.

After he was beaten, he was put in solitary confinement in a disciplinary cell until 2 November 2007. During this period, he was given only one meal and one bottle of water a day and not allowed to send letters. He was finally moved back to the prison section where he was initially detained on 7 November 2007 and held in an individual cell.

Amnesty International has also called for an investigation of Karim Amer’s ill-treatment in prison and for appropriate measures to be taken to ensure his safety and security.

Amnesty International has urged the Egyptian authorities to review or abolish all legislation that, in violation of international standards, stipulates prison sentences for the mere exercise of the rights of freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion.

Karim Amer was first detained by the Egyptian authorities for twelve days in October 2005 because of his writings on his blog (karam903.blogspot.com) about Islam and the sectarian riots that took place in the same month in Alexandria's Moharram Bek district. These riots followed reports that the video of a play believed to be anti-Islamic was being screened in a Coptic church in the district.

In March 2006, disciplinary measures were taken against him by al-Azhar University and he was dismissed. The university's disciplinary board found him guilty of blaspheming Islam.

He was rearrested in Alexandria on 7 November 2006 following a complaint made against him by al-Azhar University. He remained in detention since then until his sentencing, following a series of extensions.

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