Kareem Amer, center, delivers his first public remarks four days before the country's parliamentary elections. November 2010.
|Born||Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman Amer
|Known for||2007-10 imprisonment|
Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman Amer (Arabic: عبد الكريم نبيل سليمان عامر, IPA: [ʕæbdelkeˈɾiːm næˈbiːl seleˈmæːn ˈʕæːmeɾ, -kæˈɾiːm-]) (born c. 1984) is an Egyptian blogger and former law student. He was arrested by Egyptian authorities for posts on his blog that were considered to be anti-religious and insulting to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. On February 22, 2007, in his native city Alexandria, Amer was sentenced to three years of imprisonment for insulting Islam and inciting sedition and one year for insulting the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He was the first blogger in Egypt explicitly arrested for the content of his writing, and was released on November 17, 2010, but not before he was beaten and detained by Egyptian security forces.
Kareem Amer, a secular Egyptian, completed elementary and secondary school at al-Azhar University. He wished to complete a biology degree, but family pressure forced him to enroll in al-Azhar's Department of Shari'a and Legal Studies instead.
In 2004, Amer began expressing his reformist views at "Modern Discussion", as well as "Copts United" by 2005. By mid-2006, he discontinued publishing at Copts United because he accuses them of limiting his writings to only criticizing Muslims and not Copts as well.
Amer first came to the attention of Egyptian authorities after he published a series of blog writings highly critical of the Muslim role in the deadly sectarian riots in Alexandria in 2005, the result of a play performed at a Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, and the violent reaction of the Muslim community over the play's 'insult to Islam'.
On October 26, 2005, Amer was arrested for the first time by Egyptian state security agency Amn al-Dawla for anti-religious posts on his blog. He was detained for twelve days, and his books and personal writings were confiscated.
Expulsion from al-Azhar
Early in 2006, Amer was expelled from al-Azhar University, Damanhour Campus, for criticizing some of the university's conservative instructors, writing in his blog that the "professors and sheikhs at al-Azhar who ... stand against anyone who thinks freely" would "end up in the dustbin of history". He also posted writings that promoted secularism and women's rights.
University administrators also filed a communiqué to the Public Prosecutor Office against their former student, alleging he was "spreading rumours endangering public security" and "defaming President Mubarak".
On November 6, 2006, Amer was again detained by the public prosecutor's office after it questioned him about his writings on "Modern Discussion" that were considered by authorities to be of an irreligious nature, and because of al-Azhar's complaint to the Public Prosecutor Office.
The interrogation process involved violations by the Public Prosecutor's Office, according to the human rights lawyer of The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) who represented Kareem Amer before the prosecutor. The observed violations include the illegal attendance of three interrogators, their laughing at Amer while interrogating him, and their addressing unwarranted questions to him (e.g. "Do you fast during Ramadan?", "Do you practice prayer?").
The Public Prosecutor told Amer that if he did not abandon his views, even though personal, he may be imprisoned. Nevertheless, Amer insisted on his right to freedom of expression. Consequently, Egyptian prosecutors ordered that Amer be held in a detention center in Alexandria until November 22 at least. His detention was renewed four times before his trial opened in an Alexandria court.
Amer was charged with:
- Atheism, due to some blog posts, such as "There is no God except the Human being" (in Arabic لا إله إلا الإنسان);
- Spreading information and malicious rumors that disrupt public security
- Defaming the president of Egypt
- Incitement to overthrow the regime based upon hatred and contempt
- Incitement to hate "Islam" and to breach public peace standards
- Highlighting inappropriate issues that harm the reputation of Egypt and spreading these publicly
On January 25, 2007, a hearing took place before a court in Alexandria. Amer's defence lawyers requested the trial be adjourned so that a computer expert could be called to identify where the Web site "Modern Discussion" is hosted. It was argued that if the site was not hosted in Egypt, the Egyptian courts may be unable to prosecute Amer for his writings on that site. During the hearing, a lawyer in the courtroom introduced himself as Mohamed Dawoud, and immediately submitted a claim against Amer for his "incitement to hatred of Islam". The new claim was added as a new case that Amer would be held accountable for, even if he were to be acquitted from all the current charges made against him.
Prosecution arguments in a February 1 session were given by a team of Muslim lawyers who volunteered to serve as the 'representatives of the people,' an arrangement allowed under Egyptian law. The government's state prosecutors, who drew up the legal case against Nabil, were not present. In a heated exchange during the court session, prosecution lawyers accused Amer of being an 'apostate' and called on judge Ayman al-Akazi to hand Amer the maximum punishment.
Amer defended himself by saying, "I don't see what I have done ... I expressed my opinion...the intention was not anything like these [charges]." Defence lawyers argued that crimes related to the Internet were new in Egypt and that the penal code did not cover them. Prosecution lawyer Mohamed Dawoud stated, "I want him [Nabil] to get the toughest punishment ... I am on a jihad here ... If we leave the likes of him without punishment, it will be like a fire that consumes everything." The blogger's father, Nabil Sulaiman, mocked the human rights organizations which tried to release his son. He called for applying Islamic Law "allowing him to repent within three days before killing him if he will not", according to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.
On February 22, the judge said Nabil was guilty and would serve three years for insulting Islam and inciting sedition, and one year for insulting Mr Mubarak. An appeals court upheld the sentence on March 13, 2007.
"Democracies must allow for freedom of speech and certainly for the tolerance of diverse religious beliefs. I laud Mr. Amer’s recognition that violence in the name of religion is unacceptable. I urge the Egyptian government to free Mr. Amer and to protect its citizens from persecution."
Three Italian MPs, former Minister of Defence Antonio Martino, President of the 10th Permanent Commission (Productive Affairs, Trade and Tourism) Daniele Capezzone, and Senator Gaetano Quagliariello wrote letters to the Egyptian Ambassador to Italy Mohamed Farid Monib.
Amnesty International designated Amer a prisoner of conscience, "imprisoned simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression". After Amer's release, the organization called for Egypt to investigate his allegations that he was tortured while in custody. Human Rights Watch described Amer's arrest as a "chilling precedent" and called for his immediate release. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information called Amer's sentencing a "gloomy day for freedom of expression in Egypt" and also urged his release.
PEN America made Amer one of its "highest priority cases", arguing that he was "jailed for exercising his inalienable human right to freedom of expression". Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales discussed Amer's case during the WikiMania 2008 conference in Alexandria, suggesting that high-profile arrests like his could be hampering the development of the Arabic Wikipedia by making editors afraid to contribute.
United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Derek Clark made a speech at the EU parliament in Strasbourg on the matter of Kareen Amer and human rights in Egypt. The MEP for the East Midlands region called for the European Union to take advantage of a recently signed trade agreement with Egypt, which states that the EU will 'support Egyptian government efforts to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in line with international conventions to which Egypt is party'.
Amer was briefly freed on November 5, 2010, having served the full four years of his sentence. He was quickly rearrested by the Interior Ministry and detained for eleven additional days, during which time he later stated that he was tortured. Following his second release on November 16, he stated that he had no regrets for his previous words, and intended to continue blogging.
Role in 2011 Egyptian revolution
During the 2011 Egyptian revolution of the Arab Spring, Amer participated in the protests at Tahrir Square. He was arrested by the Egyptian Army on February 21 while leaving a protest. After three days in custody, he was released without charge. Since 2012, he's lived in exile in Norway in order to avoid further legal issues with the Egyptian authorities. Norwegian media have hosted articles and interviews of him. Through them, he urges the Norwegian society and the rest of Europe to show a more critical attitude towards Islam.
- "Egypt blogger jailed for 'insult'". BBC News. February 22, 2007. Retrieved February 22, 2007.
- Radsch, C. (2010). "First Egyptian Blogger Imprisoned for Writings is Released". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
- Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (2010). "Prior to his Release After Spending Four Years in Prison State Security Officer Beat Kareem Amer and Held him Illegally". ANHRI." Retrieved November 23, 2010.
- Kareem Amer. (2006). “تنويه هام جدا بخصوص موقع الأقباط متحدون ومقالى الأخير” (A Very Important Notice Regarding the Copts United Web Site and My Last Article) كريم عامر (Kareeem Amer’s Arabic blog). Retrieved January 28, 2007.
- The play itself was performed in 2003, but only became an issue in 2005 when DVDs of the performance began to circulate in Alexandria.
- Moger, R. and J. Ehab. (2005). "All over a play: Sectarian riots leave three dead and more than 100 injured". Cairo Magazine. Retrieved November 15, 2006.
- The Associated Press. (2005)."Egyptian blogger detained for anti-Islamic posts". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved November 15, 2006.
- Press release. (2006). "Officials order blogger 'Kareem Amer' held for another two weeks". Reporters Without Borders. Retrieved November 15, 2006.
- Kareem Amer (2006). لا إله إلا الإنسان (in Arabic). Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- Kareem FAQ: Frequently asked questions - freekareem.com. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
- Hamza Hendawi (February 2, 2012). "Egyptian court to issue verdict Feb. 22 for blogger accused of insulting Islam". Taiwan News. Associated Press. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- عائلة طالب الأزهر المتهم بـ«ازدراء الأديان» تتبرأ منه قبل الحكم عليه. Al-Masri Al-Youm (in Arabic). February 18, 2007. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- "Egypt: 4-year Sentence for Blogger Upheld". The New York Times. Associated Press. March 13, 2007. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- "Congressman Franks Concerned by Lack of Freedom of Religion and Speech in Egypt" (Press release). United States Congressman Trent Franks. January 24, 2007. Retrieved February 17, 2007.
- "Support from Italy". Free Kareem!. February 11, 2007. Retrieved February 17, 2007.
- "Egypt must investigate torture allegations made by freed blogger". Amnesty International. November 18, 2010. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- "Egypt: Blogger's Imprisonment Sets Chilling Precedent". Human Rights Watch. February 22, 2007. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- "Gloomy Day for Freedom of Expression in Egypt: Tough sentence for four years against Kareem Amer". Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. February 22, 2007. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- "Egyptian Blogger Kareem Amer Released from Prison". PEN America. November 16, 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
- Noam Cohen (July 17, 2008). "Wikipedia Goes to Alexandria, Home of Other Great Reference Works". The New York Times. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- "Euro MP Derek Clark Speaks for Kareem Amer". FreeKareem.org. March 14, 2007. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- Sarah Mikhail (November 24, 2010). "Egypt blogger says jail won't stop future activism". Reuters. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- "Egyptian blogger freed after 3 days in detention". The Jerusalem Post. Associated Press. February 11, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2012.