[JURIST] Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil [advocacy website; HRinfo backgrounder] was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday on charges of insulting Islam and causing sectarian strife in his blog [website, in Arabic]. Nabil, a 22-year-old former law student, had posted on the internet statements critical of Islamic authorities and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak [official profile], calling him a dictator. Nabil also allegedly called his university, Al-Azhar University [university website], "the university of terrorism." Charges against him included inciting sedition, insulting Islam, harming national unity and insulting the president. Nabil, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, faced a maximum of nine years in prison [JURIST report].
Nabils supporters say that government repression and censorship have become more prevalent recently, as the US has let up political pressure for reforms. Bloggers have been arrested before, but this is the first time that one has been charged with a crime. Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website] has named Egypt an Internet enemy [report] for repressing bloggers. Gamal Eid, Executive director of The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) [advocacy website] condemned Thursday's verdict in a press release [text], stating:
When a young man is punished for having secular views in a country claiming to respect citizens' right to freedom of expression, it is a catastrophe. The democratic countries all over the world have already expelled such charges from their laws.HRinfo has said they will appeal the sentence immediately. CBC News has more.