Freedom’s on the march in Washington’s top Arab client state, and the world’s second-largest US aid recipient after Israel. From the BBC News, Feb. 22:
An Egyptian court has sentenced a blogger to four years’ prison for insulting Islam and the president. Abdel Kareem Soliman’s trial was the first time that a blogger had been prosecuted in Egypt.
He had used his web log to criticise the country’s top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university and President Hosni Mubarak, whom he called a dictator.
A human rights group called the verdict “very tough” and a “strong message” to Egypt’s thousands of bloggers.
Soliman, 22, was tried in his native city of Alexandria. He blogs under the name Kareem Amer.
A former student at al-Azhar, he called the institution “the university of terrorism” and accused it of suppressing free thought.
The university expelled him in 2006 and pressed prosecutors to put him on trial.
‘Slap in the face’
During the five-minute court session the judge said Soliman was guilty and would serve three years for insulting Islam and inciting sedition, and one year for insulting Mr Mubarak.
Egypt arrested a number of bloggers who had been critical of the government during 2006, but they were all subsequently freed.
Hafiz Abou Saada of the Egyptian Human Rights Organisation called the sentence “a strong message to all bloggers who are put under strong surveillance”.
The UK-based organisation Amnesty International said the ruling was “yet another slap in the face of freedom for expression in Egypt”.
Fellow blogger Amr Gharbeia told the BBC it would not stop Egyptian bloggers from expressing opinions as “it is very difficult to control the blogosphere”.
There have been no reported comments on the sentence from the Egyptian authorities.
Soliman may have a point about al-Azhar.
See our last post on blogging in Egypt.