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by Free Kareem Coalition
Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007 at 9:30 AM
The "Free Kareem Coalition," an interfaith group of human rights activists from around the world, condemned the sentencing of Egyptian student Abdelkareem Soliman for expressing his opinion on his personal blog
A judge in Egypt today sentenced Kareem to four years in prison for the alleged crimes of "defaming the President of Egypt" and "insulting Islam."
Dalia Ziada, a blogger and activist involved with the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, explained that Kareem’s conviction remains the first time an Egyptian blogger has been arrested for writing on his blog. "It sends a chilling message to bloggers of all persuasions in Egypt and across the Middle East. We are not free to express ourselves openly on our websites."
Kareem criticized Egyptian authorities for failing to protect the rights of religious minorities and women, and expressed views about religious extremism in strong terms.
Bahraini blogger Esra’a Al-Shafei, who launched the website FreeKareem.org to coordinate the international solidarity campaign, noted the basic human rights violation.
"I was offended by some of Kareem’s blog writings. But I cannot support his imprisonment merely because he said a few things that insult my identity. Freedom of expression and open exchange of ideas must be respected."
In November, Kareem was detained after being interrogated by prosecutors. He was held for over two months without trial and has remained in solitary confinement without access to his lawyers.
Kareem’s conviction comes despite global rallies on Kareem’s behalf, including demonstrations outside Egyptian embassies in Washington, Rome, London, Paris, Stockholm, and New York. Over 2,000 people have sent letters to Egyptian authorities demanding Kareem’s release.
Opinion editorials in the Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, and Beirut Daily Star have all also called for Kareem’s release, along with a bi-partisan coalition of US Congressional leaders, European parliamentarians, and Costa Rican representatives.
"We call on the appeals courts in Egypt to listen to international condemnation and do the right thing," stated organizer Mohammed Shouman. "Kareem’s right to free expression has been violated and his conviction should be overturned."
In the meantime, activists fear Kareem’s life is in danger and hope for high-level intervention. "We hope President Hosni Mubarak will pardon Kareem and allow him to start a new life outside of Egypt," noted Al-Shafei. "We won’t be silent until Kareem is safe."
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