An Egyptian blogger has been sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam, the Prophet Mohammed and Egypt's president.
Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Cairo's Al-Azhar
University, was a sharp critic of conservative
Muslims in his blog.
He also lashed out often at Al-Azhar — the most prominent religious
centre in Sunni Islam — calling it "the university of terrorism" and
accusing it of encouraging extremism.
His conviction brought a flood of condemnations from Amnesty
International and other international and Egyptian rights group and
stunned fellow bloggers.
"I am shocked," said Wael Abbas, a blogger
who writes frequently about police abuses and other human rights
violations in Egypt. "This is a terrible message to anyone who intends
to express his opinion and to bloggers in particular."
Nabil's lawyer, Ahmed Seif el-Islam, said he would appeal against the verdict, saying the ruling will "terrify other bloggers and will have a negative impact on the freedom of expression in Egypt."
Egypt arrested a number of bloggers last year, most of them for connections to Egypt's pro-democracy reform movement.
Nabil was arrested in November, and while other bloggers were freed, Nabil was put on trial — a sign of the sensitivity of his writings on religion.
Reporters Without Borders warned that the ruling would hurt
freedom of expression in Egypt.
“This sentence is a disgrace,” the press freedom
organisation said. “Almost three years ago to the day, President
Mubarak promised to abolish prison sentences for press offences.
Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a pro-reform blogger
who was detained for six weeks last year, said the conviction for
insulting Mubarak will "have a chilling effect on the rest of the bloggers."
"We (the Egyptian people) are enduring oppression, poverty and
torture, so the least we can do is insult the president," he said.