Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Kareem goes on trial tomorrow: faces 3-7 years in jail

The latest word from Egyptian bloggers and human rights groups is that Kareem is suddenly going to be tried tomorrow (Thursday). He faces up to seven years in jail, simply for his blog posts. More information is available in Arabic here, along with the photo reprinted at right.

Egypt Daily Star Covers DC Protest

From the Daily Star:

Organized by a group called the DC Coalition for Blog Freedom, the rally urged the Egyptian government release Alexandria native Amer and protects his right to free speech.

A statement by the group said “Because of the urgency of his plight, DC-area residents of diverse backgrounds are staging a peaceful rally in front of the Egyptian Embassy's cultural affairs branch in DuPont Circle to defend Amer's right to blog freely and to call for his immediate release from jail.”

Although the protestors presented a petition to an embassy official who came out to meet them, when The Daily Star Egypt contacted the Foreign Ministry there appeared to be no plans to take any further steps concerning the matter...

The Daily Star Egypt had previously attempted to contact the Ministry of Interior concerning the status of Amer. Several faxes of queries have not been answered and a ministry official who answered a request for a phone interview declined to comment.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Banner for the Rally

Here's a banner to put on your blog publicizing the rally:

p.s. Thanks to and Freedom For Egyptians for the shout-out.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Solidarity Rally: This Thursday (Jan. 11) at Noon by DuPont Circle

Because there are concerns for Abdelkareem's safety in Al-Hadra prison (Alexandria, Egypt), we need to move quickly to build pressure on the Egyptian government to release him from detention. Kareem has now been held without trial for over two months, simply because of writing on his blog.

DC bloggers, DC blog readers, and all people of conscience are invited to attend a solidarity rally on Kareem's behalf outside a branch of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, DC. Here are the details:

WHAT: Rally to Free Abdelkareem Soliman Amer

WHEN: Thursday (Jan. 11) - 12 noon

WHERE: Egyptian Cultural and Educational Bureau
1303 New Hampshire Avenue, NW (GoogleMap)
just to the Southeast of DuPont Circle

WHO: you and your friends & colleagues

So come on out during your lunch break and take a few minutes to exercise your freedom. The rally will be peaceful and respectful. We simply want to convey to Egyptian officials that this 22-year-old student must be released from detention.

Questions? Email:

A Primer on Abdelkareem's Case

Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman Amer (who also goes by Kareem Amer and Abdelkareem Soliman) was arrested after being interrogated by prosecutors in Alexandria, Egypt, on November 7, 2006. Today, over two months later, his detention has been repeatedly renewed and he remains jailed without trial.

It's a bit of a mystery why the Egyptian authorities find the blog of a 22-year-old student so threatening, though the arrest clearly sends a chilling message to other Egyptian bloggers. Amer is soft-spoken and his blog had a small readership. Still he has been charged with the following alleged crimes, based entirely on his blog posts:
  • 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
To understand the larger context and some of Amer's personal story, read this International Herald Tribune editorial. This Columbia Spectator op-ed explores some of Amer's writing that appears to have gotten him in trouble.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, which has provided legal defense for Amer, has issued several press releases with details on his case, including his initial arrest, his ongoing detention, the 4th renewal of his detention, and an urgent report that Amer's life may be in danger.

Amer remains detained incommunicado at Al-Hadra prison in Alexandria, and his own family is prevented from visting him. There is growing concern that physical harm may come to Amer in prison.

The best way to follow developments in Amer's case is via the Free Kareem blog run by fellow bloggers in the Middle East.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Inspired by Bahraini Student Activists

Just before New Years, on Friday, December 29, a small group of Bahraini student activists gathered outside the Egyptian Embassy in Bahrain. Their mission: demand Egyptian officials release Abdelkareem, a 22-year-old student in Alexandria detained for over 45 days over a blogpost.

The students in Bahrain live under a dictatorship, yet they chose to exercise their right to free speech on behalf of a fellow student sitting in jail hundreds of miles away.

Their small act of solidarity has inspired activists in Washington, DC of diverse backgrounds to do the same. We exercise our freedom to demand the release of a young man arrested solely for being critical on his blog - something bloggers in DC do every day.

And here in DC, we are lucky to have representatives of the Egyptian government, who staff various embassy and consulate buildings around the city. If we rally here, we can send a message directly to the Egyptian government. Abdelkareem has now been held for nearly two months in jail without trial. We can demand his release - now.

Kareem FAQ

Who is Kareem?

Abdelkareem Soliman Amer is a 22-year-old native of Alexandria, Egypt. He grew up in a very religious family and attended the Al-Azhar religious school system his entire life. He began to rebel against the religious extremism he perceived in his school and began to express his opinions on a blog. When the Al-Azhar administration discovered his blog in late 2005, he was kicked out of school and his case was referred to state prosecutors.

What did Kareem post on his blog?
Though soft-spoken in person, Kareem lets his passions flow on his blog. He has written about political repression, religious extremism, and discrimination against women. Kareem often expressed “secular” views and called for equality for women in all aspects of Egyptian society. He also denounced violent attacks on Christians in Alexandria.

Why was he expelled from University?
The administration of Al-Azhar University first learned about Kareem’s blog when he posted writing about extremist teachers on campus. Those posts – and others on religious tolerance, women’s rights, and human rights restrictions – became grounds for Kareem’s expulsion.

What did the Egyptian government accuse him of?
According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Kareem stands charged with the following alleged crimes: (1) Spreading data and malicious rumors that disrupt public security; (2) Defaming the President of Egypt; (3) Incitement to overthrow the regime upon hatred and contempt; (4) Incitement to hate "Islam" and breach of the public peace standards; (5) Highlighting inappropriate aspects that harm the reputation of Egypt and spreading them to the public.

On what grounds is he being held?
Kareem was called into the prosecutor’s office in early November. Despite the presence of a human rights attorney representing him, he was interrogated about his personal religious practice and his opinion on current political issues. When he refused to recant his blog writings, he was detained for a few days. That detention has since been extended on several occasions, and over two months later Kareem is still in jail without trial.

Why is Kareem in danger?

According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Kareem is now being denied access to his attorney. His family is not allowed to visit him in prison. They have stated that Kareem’s “life is in danger.” The fear is that an “accident” in the crowded Alexandria prison could cause Kareem substantial harm.

What comment has the Egyptian government made?
We are not aware of any official comment by the government in response to concern expressed by various human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, and coverage in major Egyptian and international media outlets. It appears the government believes there is no significant pressure or demand for explanation for why a young blogger would be detained for expressing his opinions online.

Is the U.S. government doing anything about this?

We are not aware of any official comment by the US government. There is a US consulate in Alexandria, Egypt, which could investigate the case further. The US government has called for enhancing democratic culture in Egypt, but rarely has matched the rhetoric of reform with specific demands.

What can I do?

Without outside attention and pressure, the Egyptian government can effectively detain Kareem indefinitely. Only international pressure will force the government to account for their detaining a young blogger without trial for over two months. Only international pressure will help secure Kareem’s release. At the very least, news of international support provides moral encouragement to Kareem and his attorneys. One simple thing you can do right now is to send an email to the Egyptian government and US State Department. You can do that right here: