CAIRO: A rally was held Friday in front of the Egyptian embassy in Washington DC to call for the release of blogger Abdel Karim Soliman Amer, who has been detained by security forces since November.
Organized by a group called the DC Coalition for Blog Freedom, the rally urged the Egyptian government release Alexandria native Amer and protects his right to free speech.
A statement by the group said “Because of the urgency of his plight, DC-area residents of diverse backgrounds are staging a peaceful rally in front of the Egyptian Embassy s cultural affairs branch in DuPont Circle to defend Amer s right to blog freely and to call for his immediate release from jail.
Although the protestors presented a petition to an embassy official who came out to meet them, when The Daily Star Egypt contacted the Foreign Ministry there appeared to be no plans to take any further steps concerning the matter.
Amer, 22, was a student of Al Azhar University, but was expelled last March and then arrested on Nov. 7 for writings on his internet blog, where he allegedly criticized religion.
He is currently detained in Al-Hadra prison in Alexandria on charges of having defamed the Egyptian government, Spreading data and malicious rumors that disrupt public security ; defaming the president of Egypt ; incitement to overthrow the regime upon hatred and contempt ; and incitement to hate Islam and breach of the public peace standards.
Local activists and human rights organizations have previously told The Daily Star Egypt that bloggers who cover religious or sectarian issues are more likely to be targeted for arrest.
In a press release issued on Nov. 11, the organizations called upon the Egyptian government to immediately release Amer.
The arbitrary accusations against Karim Amer indicate the authorities inclination to detain Kareem simply for expressing views contradictory to theirs. The public prosecutor told Kareem that if he did not abandon his views, even though personal, he may be imprisoned, representatives from the organizations argue.
According to Dalia Ziada from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the investigator told Amer that “he should reconsider his secular opinions and change his mind in order to be able to get out of jail. When Karim insisted on his right to freedom of expression, the investigator ordered his re-detainment for another 15 days with the hope that the stay in prison might push Karim to change his mind.
The Daily Star Egypt had previously attempted to contact the Ministry of Interior concerning the status of Amer. Several faxes of queries have not been answered and a ministry official who answered a request for a phone interview declined to comment.