CAIRO: Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman Amer, better known by his blog alias ‘Kareem Amer’, was sentenced to four years in prison for defaming Islam and President Hosni Mubarak on his Internet blog by a court in Alexandria Thursday.
According to Amer’s lawyer Ahmed Saif, the former Al-Azhar University student received a sentence of three years in prison for posing criticism to Islam and one year for defaming President Mubarak in his Internet writings.
“The trial has been completely flawed and this verdict is crazy. We will, of course, make an appeal in the case to the Court of Appeals in Alexandria as soon as possible. We are planning to hand in the appeal on Saturday morning, Saif told The Daily Star Egypt.
Observers said the trial appears to have been a rollercoaster for the parties involved.
On Feb. 1, the judge adjourned the trial for the second time until Feb. 22 due to verbal tussles between the prosecution and the defense.
Since his arrest in early November, Amer’s detainment has been extended four times.
Sources close to Amer claim the young blogger suffers from ‘inhumane living conditions’ in his detainment
Rawda Ahmed, Amer’s second legal advisor, stressed that “Kareem is devastated over the verdict .
“He is very sad and disappointed. I, myself, am in complete shock over the sentence as well, Ahmed told The Daily Star Egypt.
Furthermore, Thursday’s court verdict sparked enragement and shock among global human rights organizations, civil society activists, in addition to the blogging community.
“I am extremely disappointed. It is crazy to see people in the 21st century being sentenced to prison simply for their words, Dalia Ziada, blogger and human rights activist involved Amer’s case, told The Daily Star Egypt.
Wael Abbas, one of Egypt’s most prominent bloggers and photojournalists, called the sentence ‘outrageous and shocking’.
“I am out of words. I view today’s verdict as a threatening message from the Egyptian government to Egypt’s journalists and bloggers, implying that controversial writings will not be tolerated by the authorities. Now, we bloggers are just waiting to see who of us the government will throw in prison next, Abbas said in an interview with The Daily Star Egypt.
Fadi al-Qadi, Middle East spokesman for global watchdog Human Rights Watch, claimed that ‘Kareem’s sentence sets a chilling precedent for freedom of expression in Egypt’.
“Egypt is one of the first Arab nations to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; a petition that clearly stipulates complete freedom of expression for every citizen. Thursday’s verdict once again demonstrates that the Egyptian government is using laws that contradict international human rights principles ratified by the Egyptian authorities, al-Qadi emphasized in an interview with The Daily Star Egypt.
Throughout the months of January and February, human rights activists have organized numerous protests at the Egyptian embassies in several world capitals, including Washington DC, New York, London, and Paris, calling for Amer’s release.
Even representatives from United States Congress and the Italian government have contacted the Egyptian authorities, urging them to drop all charges against the student blogger.
Sources argue that Amer’s sentence may be decreased significantly if the case wins in the Court of Appeals..