Not only are Egypt authorities refusing to release the blogger known as Kareem Amer, but he has also been subjected to beatings, one as recently as Tuesday, according to watchdog groups.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information reported Wednesday that Amer was moved from the prison in Burj Al Arab outside Alexandria on Saturday, but agents with State Security Intelligence took him to their headquarters “where he was beaten by a junior officer yesterday.”
“These sadist practices against unarmed prisoners create a climate of hatred against the police in general and SSI officers in particular,” Gamal Eid, the group’s director, said in a statement.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said it was not the first time Amer was beaten and that he “was subjected to repeated instances of harassment and abuse during his detention,” including a 2007 incident in which inmates severely beat him on orders from prison officials.
According to Human Rights First, Amer was a 22-year-old law student when he was sentenced to four years in prison for contempt of religion and defaming President Hosni Mubarak.
“Disturbed by what Kareem perceived to be religious extremism at his university, he expressed secular views promoting gender equality and questioning Islam on his blog and websites, Modern Discussion and Copts United,” Human Rights First wrote in a statement last week.
Amer, whose real name is Abdul Kareem Nabil Suleiman, was arrested in November 2006 after being expelled from Al-Ahzar, the Sunni university where he studied Sharia and law, and was held in solitary confinement until his trial in February 2007.
Despite winning awards for his courageous journalism, “Kareem's family has disowned him and his father has called for the application of Sharia law against him,” the group said.
Al Jazeera reported that he was scheduled to be released Friday but was not. A blog called Free Kareem is urging people to write to Egyptian embassies around the world to request Amer’s release.
The U.S. State Department expressed concern in 2007 about Amer’s detention, and Wael Abbas, another award-winning Egyptian blogger, told CNN last month he felt Amer’s arrest was designed to intimidate other journalists in the country.
“We knew they were targeting Kareem Amer to make an example of him to other bloggers, and we refused to let them destroy us,” Abbas said.
Basem Fathy, a blogger and Cairo-based projects director for the Egyptian Democracy Academy, met Amer in prison, Fathy told Al Jazeera. There, Amer earned his respect, even if the two didn’t concur on every issue, he said.
“Before going to the prison, I just was a little bit affected by his reputation for defaming Islam,” Fathy told the station. “After meeting him and reading more and thinking more, now and for the last two years, I am a very strong supporter for his freedom.
“I might disagree with his opinions, but I also disagree with the arrest for his opinions.”