Letter from an Egyptian prison



 
The imprisoned Egyptian cyber-dissident Kareem Amer said in a letter to a fellow blogger that he fears for his safety in Egypt because he is an atheist. In 2006, Amer was sentenced to four years in prison for insulting President Mubarak and Islam on his Internet blog.
 
By ALEXANDRA SANDELS
 
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Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer has been in prison for 836 days. © Free Kareem

BEIRUT, February 19, 2009 (MENASSAT)-  “Do you think that life outside prison will be better or do you think it will be more hell than here?” imprisoned blogger Kareem Amer asked “Wahda Masrya” in a letter a few days ago.

Wahda Masrya, moderator of the blog “An Egyptian girl” and a close friend of Amer, told MENASSAT that the dissident blogger currently feels “very lonely” and that he is in need of “moral support.”

The blogger has been in prison since 2006, and it appears to have taken a hard toll on him. 

“Prison has become a part of my imagination. I don’t remember what life was like before my imprisonment and what people look like outside,” Amer wrote in his letter.

Wahda Masrya said Amer’s atheist views make it especially hard for him and that he fears for his safety after his release from Alexandria’s Borg Al-Arab prison. 

“In his letter, I see that he is frustrated. He wrote that he is not sure if being out will be safer for him. He needs to be reassured that he will be safe, as he is considered an atheist.” Wahdamasryra told MENASSAT.

"Is he an infidel or not?"

A former student at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, Amer was arrested in November 2006 and subsequently sentenced to a four-year jail term for his "defamatory" writings on Islam and the Egyptian President.

On his blog, 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.”

Amer’s views of Islam attracted criticism among some circles in the Arab world.

“Many in the Arab world seem confused whether they should support him. They maintain sort of an 'Is he an infidel or not?' type of perspective," Esra’a Al-Shafei, Director of the Free Kareem Coalition, an online support campaign for Amer, previously told MENASSAT.

Meanwhile, Wahda Masrya said she responded to Amer’s letter telling him that people are supporting him and that “he’s not alone.”

Hopes for an early release

Wahda Masrya has paid several visits to her friend in prison but says recent restrictions has made it very difficult for Amer to receive visitors.

“Now, you must have permission from security to visit him. Kareem told me that this has made him sad because people are not able to visit him as before,” she told MENASSAT.

The case of Amer marks the first time a cyber-dissident had been given a prison sentence in Egypt.

The blogger’s imprisonment has sparked an outcry from activist groups around the world and has attracted much unwanted attention to the Egyptian authorities.

Wahda Masrya said that Amer retains hope of being granted an early release from prison.

“He’s waiting for the day he’ll be released from prison and hopes that by next November, when he’d have spent the majority of his time in prison, the government may be able to release him,” she said.