By Amina Saddiq
22 year old Egyptian blogger and former law student Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, or Kareem Amer as he is known online, was arrested by the authorities in Alexandria on 22 February and charged with the following offences:
• Spreading information and malicious rumours that disrupt public security;
• Defaming the president of Egypt;
• Incitement to overthrow the regime based upon hatred and contempt;
• Incitement to hate Islam and to breach public peace standards; and
• Highlighting inappropriate issues that harm the reputation of Egypt and spreading these publicly.
He has now been sentenced to four years in prison, three for insulting Islam and one for insulting Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The sentence has been upheld in a court of appeal.
Kareem’s first political activities included involvement in the organisations of Egypt’s large Coptic Christian minority — but by the middle of last year, for instance, he had stopped publishing on the Copts United website because it refused to allow him to criticise Christianity and Coptic culture as well as Islam.
He was arrested for the first time in October 2005, and had his books and personal writings confiscated. Early last year, he was expelled from Al-Azhar university for criticising conservative lecturers, writing that “professors and sheikhs at Al-Azhar who... stand against anyone who thinks freely” would “end up in the dustbin of history”. He also posted writings that promoted secularism and women’s rights.
University administrators incited the Egyptian government to arrest Kareem again. At least partly as a result, Kareem was arrested again in November 2006 for posts on his blog that were considered by authorities to be of an anti-religious nature.
Amnesty International and Egyptian human rights organisations have recorded numerous abuses during the process of charging and bringing Kareem to trial, including interrogating officers mocking him for not being Muslim. There is now evidence that after his sentence was handed down, Kareem was severely beaten by security officers.
The words of prosecution lawyer Mohamed Dawoud are instructive:
“I want him to get the toughest punishment... I am on a jihad here... If we leave the likes of him without punishment, it will be like a fire that consumes everything.”
Hosni Mubarak’s US-backed regime has a long record of suppressing democratic and workers’ rights; it has also espouses a form of “state political Islam” in part prompted by the growing popularity of the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood opposition. We must oppose all repression by the regime; but for secular, democratic, working-class socialists, Kareem’s case is particularly important.
• Free Kareem campaign: www.freekareem.org
• Online petition to free Kareem: