Egypt urged to free blogger

Ikhwanweb opposes Egyptian government’s clamp on freedom of expression and demands the release of blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman and all prisoners of conscience. Whether Abdel Karim’s writings “defame” Islam or not is something that should of have been handled by scholars not by police officers and the government should lift its hands off its citizens and allow them the opportunity to express their views freely and without fear of persecution or intimidations.

Egypt urged to free blogger

US-based Human Rights Watch urged Egypt to free an opposition blogger on trial over writings that prosecutors charge defame Islam and insult President Hosni Mubarak.

Abdel Karim Suleiman, a 22-year-old former law student who has been detained since November, is the first person to stand trial in Egypt over the content of writings posted on the internet. He is on trial in the coastal city of Alexandria.

Rights groups and other opposition bloggers are watching the case closely and say they fear a conviction may set a legal precedent limiting internet freedom in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country.

“By curbing a blogger’s freedom to post, the government may be trying to close an important space for Egyptians to speak openly about events and issues that worry them,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa Director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“The Egyptian government should immediately drop all charges against Suleiman and release him,” she added.

The internet has emerged as a major forum for critics of the Egyptian government to express their views in a country where the large daily newspapers and the main television station are state-run.

While Suleiman is the first blogger to go on trial for the content of his internet writings, other opposition bloggers have also been arrested periodically during street protests then held for weeks or several months before being released.

Last year, Reporters Without Borders added Egypt to a list of worst suppressors of freedom of expression on the internet.

Blogger Suleiman, a Muslim and a liberal, has not denied writing the articles at issue in the case but said they merely represented his views.

One of Suleiman’s articles said al-Azhar in Cairo, one of the most prestigious seats of Sunni Muslim learning, was promoting extreme ideas. Another article accused Muslims of savagery during clashes between Muslims and Christians in Alexandria in 2005.

Suleiman has also denounced Mubarak, comparing him to the dictatorial pharaohs who ruled ancient Egypt.

Lawyers for Suleiman have expressed pessimism over the chances for an acquittal in the case, saying they expected the blogger to be convicted on at least one charge.

The court has rejected a defence request for Suleiman to be released on bail. If convicted, he could face up to nine years in jail.

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