Kareem sentenced to 4 years
Kareem was sentenced to four years in prison after a five minute session at the Muharam Beq missdaumenours court this morning. The defense team delievered their written statements(the judge had decided earlier on during the trial, not to allow any verbal statements during the last session) to the judge Ayman Okaz. I´m quite certain that the judge took the defence team´s statement under consideration(hopefully he had recieved a copy in advance).
The sentence was divided as follows: Three years for insulting islam and a year for insulting the President. The third charge, spreading information disruptive of public order and damaging to the country´s reputation was dropped.
The defense team decided to appeal as soon as possible. Maybe as early as saturday, although hopes that it will change anything in a significant way are not high according toHR-info human rights activist and blogger Dalia Zaida .
Voices about the verdict
One of Kareem´s lawyers, Ahmed Seif el-Islam, head of the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre:
¨ it will terrify other bloggers and have a negative impact on freedom of expression in Egypt.¨
Hafez Abu Saada, head of the Egyptian Human Rights Organization, described the verdict as "very tough" to Nadia Abou al Magd of the AP news agency.
Gamal Eid, HRinfo Executive director:
"It is a gloomy day for all the advocators of freedom of expression not only in Egypt but also in the whole world,said. When a young man is punished for having secular views in a country claiming respect to 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".
Amnesty International issued a statement :
Amnesty International condemns the four-year sentence handed down by an Egyptian court today against blogger Karim Amer, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director said:
"This sentence is yet another slap in the face of freedom of expression in Egypt,"
¨The Egyptian authorities must protect the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, even if the views expressed might be perceived by some as offensive. Amnesty International considers Karim Amer to be a prisoner of conscience who is being prosecuted on account of the peaceful expression of his views."
Sarah Leah WatsonMiddle East Director, Human Rights Watch:
“This sentence sets a chilling precedent in a country where blogs have opened a window for free speech, The Egyptian government should abide by its commitments to uphold free expression and release Sulaiman without delay.”
For a quick glance at the Egyptian blogosphere´s reaction, visit Amira al Husseini´s great roundup at Global Voices, who has championed and supported Kareem as well as other Egyptian bloggers in trouble from the very beginning.
This is a sad, but very expected day for Kareem, my first toughts are for him and people around him.
Secondly it´s also a sad day for the window that blogs have opened in Egypt. A space that is somewhat freeer and very creative, for how long , one might wonder ?
It´s just one more sad day in the line that started on black wednesday, the day Egyptians were supposed to cast their vote to embrace multicandidate Presidential elections in May 2005. We have had quite a few sad days since then.
It´s also a reminder of how some of the great sons and daughters of Egypt have gone through the same odd experience with al Azhar, albeit with different outcomes, that Kareem has been through for the last 16 months. The likes of Ali Abd al Razeq, Taha Hussein, Naguib Mahfouz, Youssef Chahine, Farag Fouda, Alaa Hamid, NasserHamid Abu Zeid, Louis Awad and Nawal as Saádawi have all been under the scrutiny, and been jugded as not up to par with the high standards of the much acclaimed institution.
For at least four of them, this has had enourmous consequenses , Mahfouz was stabbed 35 years after he wrote Awlad Haratna(Children of Gabalawi), the perpetrator using al Azhars deccision as the reason for commiting the act. Farag Fouda was killed in the street after SheikhMuhamed al Ghazali had declared him an apostate. Nasser Hamed Abu Zeid was stripped of his position at Cairo University, and unvillingly divored from his wife, Iqbal Younis and both of them forced into exile.
And now Abd al Karim Nabil Sulaiman...
There is two things that i want to say:
First of all, it´s not people like Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Hafez Abu Saáda(in fact what tarnished Egypt much more, was when Abu Saáda turned up in Paris for the 50th anniversary of the universal declaration of Human Rights, all bold and beautiful directly from interigations in Cairo after writing a report on Kosheh) and Kareem that tarnishes the image of Egypt, the image that the state is trying to convey is exactly that, a fabricated image, a poster, an illusion.
The real image is the daily life of the ordinary you and me in the Egyptian paradise, that is to say people like Imáad al Kabir, Magdi Farouk or Abd al Hareth Madani(if somebody remembers).
What people perceive as a defence for religion or a defence for the image of Egypt, is not a good thing, it´s a sign of weakness, the religions(Islam or Christianity alike) need not be protected by the people. Religion in itself is larger than anyone of us combined and both of the two religions has outlived worse times than this. It´s us that need´s religions not the other way around, and Islam is not threatened as a religion or civilization by al Qaida, Denmark, Salman Rushdie the Pope or any of the abowementioned authors, and certainly not by a single blogger like Kareem, just as Christianity is not threatened by the writings of Muhammad Emara or the pictures of the monk, etcetera.
Kareem, who if it wasn´t for the media attention that this trial created would have been a normal student with a blog, that he used regularly to get things out of his system, and not the well known ¨secular¨ blogger who was imprisoned for his views, and is regarded as a prisoner of conscience in what used to be the known as the craddle of civilization.
Here is an old post with relevant background info.
UPDATE I: One of Kareem´s laywers, Rawda Ahmed announced that the defense team had appealed the sentence on monday February 26th and that a court hearing for the appeal is set for March 12th.
UPDATE II: A good article by the excellent egyptian journalist Mona el Tahawy.
Abd al Karim Nabil Soliman, Kareem Amer, Abdolkarim, blogging Egypt, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International