Saturday, 27 September 2008

Censorship and police brutality in Egypt

In November last year I took part in a protest outside the Egyptian embassy in London in support of Kareem Amer, a blogger jailed for "insulting Islam and inciting sedition" (3 years) and "insulting the President" (1 year).

Kareem's case was recently featured on Al Jazeera's Listening Post. The show highlighted the violence he has been subjected to in prison, as well as the Egyptian government's use of surveillance and spurious charges to stifle free speech. It also featured the shocking case of Emad El-Kebir, a minibus driver who was tortured and raped in police custody (05:18 in the video). The police filmed the incident on a mobile phone and used it to intimidate other bus drivers. Thanks to bloggers posting the video, a weekly newspaper was alerted to the story and managed to find the victim of the abuse. Mr El-Kebir was persuaded to press charges, and two of the perpetrators were eventually sentenced to prison. I would say they were "brought to justice", but given the length of their sentences (just 3 years each, compared to Kareem's 4), I'm not sure that phrase is entirely appropriate.

These cases in Egypt are a reminder of how closely human freedoms are connected. If we stand by while the government silences bloggers, the police will be free to commit other human rights abuses because there will be nobody around to report them. Please take a minute to sign this petition urging the Egyptian government to free the bloggers it has jailed.

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