Activists stage worldwide rallies in support of jailed Egyptian cyber dissident Karem Amer

On the third anniversary of the sentencing of Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer to four years in prison for insulting Islam and President Mubarak on his blog, human rights activists held demonstrations in several world capitals, calling for his release.
 free karim rally
FREE KAREEM supporters rally in America's capital. © Peter Eyre

BEIRUT (MENASSAT)- Armed with flyers and banners featuring slogans such as 'Shame On Egypt' and 'Respect Human Rights', rights activists protested Abdul “Kareem” Nabeel Suleiman’s imprisonment outside Egyptian embassies and consulates in New York, San Francisco, and Brussels among other cities.

Pete Eyre, organizer of the rally in Washington DC told MENASSAT in an email conversation that their event had been a 'success'.

"There were 18 people who showed up to help spread the word about Kareem and vocalize their opposition to government-imposed censorship. Foot traffic in the area was moderate, and we handed out around 350 flyers," he wrote.

FREE KAREEM demonstrators in Washington D.C. © Peter Eryre

In Brussels, more than 40 participants joined a 2-hour long rally outside the Egyptian embassy in the Belgian capital, an event that reportedly made it into Belgium's national newspapers.

Meanwhile in Italy, two of the participants in the Rome rally were let inside the Egyptian embassy to personally voice their concerns about Kareem.

In San Fransisco, a lone activist positioned herself outside the Egyptian consulate in solidarity with the worldwide actions.

Prison blues

The rallies were orchestrated by the "Free Kareem Coalition", a web campaign launched in support of Kareem in 2006. 

Thursday's demonstrations marked the third year in a row the group organized worldwide support rallies for the jailed cyber dissident on the anniversary of his jailing.


A former student at the Al-Azhar University in Alexandria, Kareem was arrested in November 2006 and subsequently sentenced to a four year long jail term for his alleged tarnishing writings on Islam and the Egyptian President on his blog.

In his writings, Kareem had posed staunch criticism against the teaching methods at his university, referring to the school as the university of “terrorism” and saying that his conservative professors taught that freethinkers “end up in the dustbin of history.”

His sentencing marks the first time Egypt referred a cyber dissident to prison.

The case has attracted much unwanted attention to Egyptian authorities from rights groups, international media, and foreign governments.

On Thursday, Eyre managed to chat up an employee from the Egyptian Cultural and Educational Bureau, where the DC rally took place, to tell him why the group had gathered on his property.

His answer came as a bit of a surprise to Eyre.

"He was surprisingly pleasant and in agreeable about Kareem's right to free speech because, as he put it, he is a 'human being'. I asked him to tell his colleagues and those he works for that we don't support Egypt's policy on this issue," Eyre told MENASSAT.

Harsh living conditions

Kareem is serving his sentence at Egypt's Borg Al-Arab prison, a facility not known for its respect of prisoners’ rights.

In late 2007, Kareem’s lawyers from the Cairo-based watch dog Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo) filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor claiming that their client had been subjected to torture and abuse by a fellow inmate and a prison guard.

They said Amer had contacted them claiming he had been assaulted and then transferred to solitary confinement where he was placed in shackles and repeatedly beaten for two days. The alleged battery resulted in a broken tooth.

HRInfo stressed that an investigation officer employed at the prison supervised the incident.

An Egyptian blogger who has paid regular visits to Kareem throughout his detainment told MENASSAT that the authorities had become increasingly cautious in granting permission to visitors.

"I haven't visited Kareem lately because it's too complicated at this moment…but I did receive a letter from him two weeks ago," the blogger told MENASSAT in an email exchange.

The blogger said Kareem had written, “I’m hoping to be let out of prison after completing half of the jail sentence' and that he was 'happy' to hear about the rallies taking place.”

"He wants me to thank everyone, he told me. I will tell him what happened at the demonstrations to help him go on," the blogger said.

"But I don't think the authorities will let him out," added the blogger.

For a related link:
Op-Ed: Free Kareem campaign director weighs in on Middle-East youth activism
Posted on 07/11/2008 - 15:00
A day after global demonstrations were held to free jailed Egyptian blogger Abdul “Kareem” Nabeel Suleiman, Founder and Executive Director of Mideast Youth and the Director of the Free Kareem Campaign, Esra’a Al-Shafei discusses what these movements mean for the future of Middle-East youth activism. KARIM