Egypt should free blogger held beyond his term

New York, November 10, 2010–Egyptian authorities must immediately release blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman, known online as Karim Amer, who completed his four-year prison sentence on November 5, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. CPJ also calls on authorities to investigate and punish a security officer who reportedly assaulted Amer on Tuesday.

The government’s continued imprisonment of Amer reflects its overall abusive treatment of the blogger, who was subjected to repeated instances of harassment and abuse during his detention. Authorities moved Amer last week from Borg al-Arab Prison outside Alexandria to a State Security Investigations facility in the city, where he was to undergo release procedures. The agency has continued to detain Amer without explanation, and he was beaten by a security officer, his lawyer, Rawda Ahmad, told CPJ.

“There is no legal basis for Amer’s detention beyond his court-imposed sentence,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “It’s alarming that a law enforcement officer would feel he could attack someone with impunity. The assault should be investigated, and charges should be brought against the officer.”

Arrested on November 6, 2006, Amer was convicted by an Alexandria court on charges of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak. A student at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, Amer was expelled in 2006 because he frequently criticized the state-run religious university, which he accused of promoting extremist ideas, and Mubarak, whom he referred to as a dictator.

Amer was the first blogger in Egypt to be convicted explicitly for his work, CPJ research shows. In 2007, inmates severely beat Amer on the orders of prison officials, CPJ research shows. In April, security officers confiscated Suleiman’s notebooks and letters of support that he receives.