Thursday, February 22, 2007

Egyptian Blogger Jailed for 'Insults'

We at AltTulsa believe in free speech. It's a good thing, we always say, when citizens can criticize their government, government leaders, and other powerful institutions and people without fear of reprisal.

But an Egyptian blogger named Abdel Kareem Soliman this week discovered the limits of free speech in Egypt. According to the BBC News, Soliman was sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam and Egypt's leader, President Hosni Mubarak.

The trial—if you can call it that—took all of five minutes.

Soliman is the first Egyptian blogger to be prosecuted, the BBC reported. His offenses included criticism of the nation's top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university, which Soliman called "the university of terrorism." Soliman referred to Mubarak as a dictator.

Amnesty International, the BBC reported, called Soliman's prosecution "yet another slap in the face for freedom of expression in Egypt."

We know little of Egyptian life or politics, but even in an authoritarian country with restrictive laws and customs, a five-minute trial and a four-year prison term are extraordinarily unfair and unjust.

The only good news in this situation comes from a fellow Egyptian blogger named Amr Gharbeia. He told the BBC that other Egyptian bloggers would keep up their criticism. We hope he's right. If he's not, he may end up in the cell next to Soliman.

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