Egyptian blogger Karim Amer harassed in jail

New York, April 29, 2010The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an campaign of harassment and intimidations against imprisoned Egyptian blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman, known online as Karim Amer. 

In the most recent instance of harassment, security officers at Borg Al-Arab Prison in Alexandria went into Amer’s cell this week and confiscated his notebooks as well as letters of support that had been sent to him from around the world, according to Amer’s lawyers. The notebooks are believed to contain his personal writings.

 “This is not the first time prison authorities have gone out of their way to harass Karim Amer,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “Egyptian authorities seem intent on degrading critics even when they are in prison. Karim Amer should not be in prison at all.”

In August 2008, some of Amer’s books and other reading materials were arbitrarily confiscated, his lawyer said. In November 2007, a Borg Al-Arab guard and inmates severely beat Amer on the orders of prison officials, the lawyer said. In that attack, Amer was stripped of his clothes and assaulted by an inmate and a guard. Officials later transferred him to solitary confinement where he was attacked again, losing a tooth and suffering bruises, CPJ research shows.

Amer was arrested in November 2006 and sentenced in February 2007 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.

Amer was eligible for release on November 5, 2009, after having completed three fourths of his term, in accordance with Egyptian law that permits prisoners to be released early for good behavior. Amer’s lawyer sent an appeal to President Hosni Mubarak, but the request was denied. In October, an appeals court also denied the defense lawyer’s motion for a retrial.

Egypt is currently holding two other bloggers, Mosad Abu Fagr and Hani Nazeer, in administrative detention under the provisions of the country’s 29-year-old emergency law. Abu Fagr has been in government custody since December 2007, despite 18 judicial orders for his release, while Nazeer has been in custody since October 2008 in spite of six judicial orders for his release. Neither has seen his day in court.