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The eleventh plague of Egypt

October 22, 2007

The Bible describes how Egypt was visited by ten plagues or calamities as some sort of divine revenge for Pharaoh not letting the Israelites leave. These days, Egypt is visited by an eleventh plague.However, this one is not brought on by God, but by an oppressive government.

News from Egypt show that censorship and oppression of free speech is growing in Egypt. This is becoming such a grave problem that it amounts to a calamity, and as such, I hereby announce it the eleventh plague of Egypt.

Abdul Kareem Nabeel: One year is enough!

Egyptian authorities have been censoring newspapers and other official media since time out of mind. Lately, they have also begun targeting bloggers as well as journalists in the traditional media. One of the best known cases is that of Kareem Amer. On November 6, 2006, Egyptian blogger Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, better known by his Internet pseudonym Kareem Amer,was detained. In February 2007, he was convicted of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak and sentenced to four years in prison. After almost a year, Kareem is still in prison.

The Kareem case marks the first time Egypt subjects an internet blogger to a prison term and the sentencing has sparked heavy criticism from human rights groups as well as representatives of various governments. As the sad anniversary approaches, activists of the online campaign Free Kareem Coalition are preparing for a day of worldwide protests in early November in support of the imprisoned cyber dissident.

As numerous oppressive regimes are now targeting bloggers in their attempts to curb criticism, censor journalism and limit free speech, it is more important than ever that bloggers stand up for each other and show clearly that this cannot be tolerated. Show your support for Kareem by signing this petition, and take a look at this website to find out what else you can do.

Activists detained for denouncing torture

Sadly, Kareem is not the only Egyptian activist currently paying a high price for telling the truth. According to Human Rights First, Ahmad Mohamed Sobh and Mohamed el-Derini have been arrested for their activities to defend the rights of the small Shi’ite religious minority and their public denunciation of torture in Egyptian prisons. The two men have been charged with “disseminating Shi’ite extremist ideas with the intent of provoking contempt of the Islamic religion” and “spreading false rumors and sensational propaganda likely to terrorize the population, disturb public security, contravene the law, and undermine confidence in security agencies”. The latter charge refers to their denunciation of torture. If convicted, the two could face up to five years’ imprisonment for the first charge and three years for the second.

The treatment of el-Derini and Sobh shows clearly that their claims of torture in Egyptian prisons are not just “false rumors”. Both activists are kept in solitary confinement at the Torah prison near Cairo, and el-Derini has been given only one meal a day and denied access to his medication. The whole case also shows that Egypt desperately needs strong voices who dare to speak out against oppression, censorship and torture. Support the important work of el-Derini and Sobh by signing the petition for their release.

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