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Middle East
Outspoken Egyptian blogger released
Kareem Suleiman freed after serving four-year sentence for his online writings about religion.
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2010 19:50
Suleiman was arrested in 2006 for his online writings [FreeKareem.org]

Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, reportedly the first blogger in Egypt to face trial for his online writings, has been freed from prison after being held 10 days beyond his intended release date.

Suleiman, who was imprisoned for more than four years, has declined to speak publicly since he was released on Monday, according to the website of the campaign organised to support him.

"Kareem refused to talk to anyone at the moment, however he reassures all his supporters worldwide that he's fine," a post on the website's blog said.

"The brave man wants to have a little privacy for a week before he can say anything."

Earlier this month, Egyptian security forces reportedly beat Suleiman after transferring him from the Borg al-Arab prison in Alexandria, where he was serving his sentence, to the city's State Security Intelligence (SSI) office.

'Climate of hatred'

Gamal Eid, Suleiman's lawyer and the director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said in a statement that Suleiman had been beaten by a "junior officer".

After his release date came and went on November 5, he was transferred to SSI headquarters and presented with an order for his continued detention, Eid said.

Suleiman's treatment served to reinforce a "climate of hatred" against the police, Eid wrote. "The ministry of the interior, with all its officers and soldiers, is not more powerful than his right."

Suleiman was first arrested in Alexandria on November 6, 2006. Authorities extended his detention several times and eventually filed formal charges against him and brought him to trial.

Suleiman pleaded not guilty, but in February 2007 a judge convicted him for defaming Hosni Mubarak, the president, inciting hatred of Islam and inciting the overthrow of the government, among other charges. The judge handed Suleiman a four-year prison sentence.

After news of Suleiman's continued detention began to spread, well-known advocacy groups, among them Reporters Without Borders and The Committee to Protect Journalists, weighed in to protest.

Controversial writer

Suleiman's writings had led authorities to question him even before his November 2006 detention.

Writing under the pseudonym Kareem Amer, Suleiman expounded prolifically on his blog, addressing issues of political repression, religious extremism and women's rights.

He wrote a blog post about an incident in Alexandria where Muslims and Coptic Christians clashed over the sale of a DVD recording of a play called "Once I Was Blind But Now I See" that depicted a poor, young Copt who is drawn to Islamist fighters who then try to kill him.

Three people died and a nun was stabbed by a young Muslim man in the incident.

In his post, Suleiman said that "the Muslims have taken the mask off to show their true hateful face, and they have shown the world that they are at the top of their brutality, inhumanity, and thievery".

Suleiman's conviction sparked widespread coverage in the media and worldwide demonstrations from Sweden to the United States. The US state department publicly expressed concern about Suleiman's conviction and gave his arrest a critical mention in its 2006 human rights report.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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