CPJ alarmed by allegation of assault on jailed blogger in Egypt

New York, November 20, 2007— The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by recent allegations that an Egyptian blogger, jailed earlier this year for his online criticisms, was violently assaulted by inmates and prison guards this month.

On November 12, the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and the Hisham Mubarak Center for Law reported that blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman had been severely beaten by a prison guard and inmates operating under the orders of prison officials at Borg Al-Arab Prison located in the suburbs of Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city. The two groups said that in an incident in early November, Suleiman was stripped of his clothes and brutally assaulted by an inmate and a guard. He was later transferred to a solitary prison cell where he was further attacked, losing a tooth and suffering bruises in the assaults, the groups said.

“We are shocked by reports that our colleague was brutally assaulted and demand that Egyptian authorities investigate this troubling incident and ensure his safety,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “These allegations are all the more alarming given that Abdel Karim Suleiman should not be in prison in the first place. We once again call on Egyptian authorities to end his unjust imprisonment.”

Suleiman, 23, who goes by the online moniker Karim Amer, was first arrested in November 2006. He was sentenced in February to four years in prison for writing critically about conservative religious figures in charge of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the preeminent higher learning institution in Sunni Islam, and also for criticizing President Hosni Mubarak. Suleiman accused Al-Azhar, where he had been a student, of promoting extremist ideas, and he referred to Mubarak as a dictator. In 2005, he had criticized Muslims after sectarian riots in Alexandria. He was expelled from Al-Azhar in 2006 and then arrested in November 2006 and charged for his online writings.

This politically motivated imprisonment of a blogger, the first of its kind in Egypt, occurred amid rising attacks on independent journalists, which led CPJ in May to designate Mubarak’s government as one of the world’s worst backsliders on press freedom.