CAIRO -- An Egyptian court's imprisonment of a blogger last week is another official blow to free speech, according to fellow bloggers and human-rights activists.That is not the worst. In true Soviet style his own father has denounced him and called for his death.
"It affects the only space of free speech left in Egypt, which is the Internet and the blogs, and it could possibly hinder what you can write in the future," said a prominent Egyptian who posts in Web logs, or blogs, anonymously under the name Sandmonkey.
An Alexandria court convicted Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, 22, of insulting Islam and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, sentencing him Thursday to four years in prison.
Suleiman, a former student of Al-Azhar University, the Middle East's most respected Sunni religious institution, attacked the university, Muslims and the Egyptian government in his blog.
His parents denounced him, demanding that he recant or be executed, one Egyptian newspaper reported.Big Pharaoh comments on the sentence - scroll down.
The court's sentence has shocked the growing Egyptian blogosphere. Its more than 3,000 writers, from all levels of Egyptian society, increasingly have exposed police torture and other government excesses through Web articles and videos. Some post in English, although most -- like Suleiman -- write in Arabic.
"These charges are indefinable -- you can't define insulting the president, you can't define the space for religion," said Sandmonkey. "There are no fixed parameters for that."
"What really upsets me is ... that he has no sympathy coming from the Egyptian street, mainly for what he said about Islam and religion," said another blogger who posts under the name Big Pharaoh. "This is really scary. It could start with Abdel Kareem and it could go to other areas. In the future, maybe anyone who writes about politics will get arrested."
Here are a few Sandmonkey posts on the subject.
Abdel Karim family disowns him
Abdel Karim gets sentenced
My PJM piece on Abdel Karim is up
Leave Egypt, to where exactly?