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Cairo – 7 November 2006

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) condemned today the prosecutorial decision to hold in custody the Egyptian blogger Abdel Karim Suliman Amer – known as “Kareem Amer” – for four days pending investigation. Al-Azhar University interrogated Kareem after dismissing him in March and then filed a communiqué against him to the Public Prosecutor Office because of his secular writings.

Security forces illegally arrested Kareem in October 2005 for twelve days on account of his online writings about the sectarian strife that took place in Alexandria last year. After releasing him Al-Azhar University wherein he is a registered student dismissed him because of his secular thoughts. Afterwards, the university filed a communiqué to the Public Prosecutor Office against Kareem. While prosecutorial interrogations, Kareem insisted on his right to freedom of expression in respect with his secular ideas. Consequently, the prosecutor decided to keep him in custody for renewable four days pending investigation.

The interrogation process witnessed some violations by the Public Prosecutor Bureau, according to human rights lawyer of HRinfo who represented Kareem before the prosecutor. The monitored violations of the Public Prosecutor include the illegal attendance of three interrogators, laughing at Kareem while interrogating him, and addressing illegal questions to him (e.g. do you fast in Ramadan? Do you practice prayer?). It is evident that the interrogations with Kareem lacked integrity.

“It is regrettable and shameful for a university to punish one of its students for practicing his basic right to freedom of expression. The university did not only dismiss him, but also did not hesitate to take up the role of an informer by filing a communiqué against him to the Public Prosecutor Office. Kareem is targeted because he expressed his own views,” HRinfo Executive Director; Gamal Eid Said. “Al-Azhar University is therefore presenting a bad model for any university. Freedom of Speech is to be defended by all even when ideas disagree”.

It is noteworthy that the claim no. 6677/2006 filed against Kareem in Mohram Bek Prosecution, Alexandria included arbitrary accusations which are considered to be in violation of the right to freedom of expression; a violation targeting Egyptian writers, intellectuals, and political activists for almost 50 years.

Kareem Amer is charged with:

* Spreading data and malicious rumors that disrupt public security
* Defaming the President of Egypt
* Incitement to overthrow the regime upon hatred and contempt
* Incitement to hate “Islam” and breach of the public peace standards
* Highlighting inappropriate aspects that harm the reputation of Egypt and spreading them to the public

Furthermore, the fact that investigators of the Public Prosecution put aside their neutrality and allowed their own personal biases during an official investigation in a case of conscience is a serious threat not only to the future of a 22 year old young man, but also to freedom of expression in Egypt. “Kareem was courageous when he defended his right to freedom of expression despite his confidence that he will be imprisoned for this. Defenders of freedom of expression and human rights in Egypt and worldwide are called upon to stand in solidarity and defend Kareem “, Eid said.