Half of all Americans would be in jail if it were illegal here…
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (Reuters)
An Alexandria court convicted an Egyptian blogger Thursday for insulting both Islam and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and sentenced him to four years in jail over his writings on the Internet.
Abdel Karim Suleiman, a 22-year-old former law student who has been in custody since November, was the first blogger to stand trial in Egypt for his Internet writings. He was convicted in connection with eight articles he wrote since 2004.
Rights groups and opposition bloggers have watched Suleiman’s case closely, and said they feared a conviction could set a legal precedent limiting Internet freedom in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country.
The London-based rights group Amnesty International said in a statement: “This is yet another slap in the face of freedom of expression in Egypt.” The group considers Suleiman to be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully expressing his opinion, the statement added.
The Paris-based press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders said the sentence was “a disgrace” and the United Nations should respond by disqualifying Egypt from hosting an Internet Governance Forum in 2009.
“It is time the international community took a stand on Egypt’s repeated violations of press freedom and the rights of Internet users,” a statement added.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey also criticized the verdict, telling reporters that Washington was “very concerned” about Suleiman’s conviction and sentencing and regarded freedom of speech as a basic human right.
UPDATE: He has since been released from prison after serving 4 years.