I am ever grateful that I have the freedom to offer my opinions and insights on the pages of this weblog. And though some may take exception to the dissent I frequently express and even question my loyalty to America, I remain free to voice my point of view. Sadly, though, there are individuals elsewhere in the world who are not so fortunate and are persecuted for speaking out. Consider the case of Abdel Kareem Nabil, as reported by the Associated Press (via Editor & Publisher):
An Egyptian blogger was convicted Thursday and sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and Egypt’s president, sending a chill through fellow Internet writers who fear a government crackdown.
Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution, was a vocal secularist and sharp critic of conservative Muslims in his blog. He also lashed out often at Al-Azhar — the most prominent religious center in Sunni Islam — calling it “the university of terrorism” and accusing it of encouraging extremism.
His conviction brought a flood of condemnations from Amnesty International and other international and Egyptian rights group and stunned fellow bloggers.
“I am shocked,” said Wael Abbas, a blogger who writes frequently about police abuses and other human rights violations in Egypt. “This is a terrible message to anyone who intends to express his opinion and to bloggers in particular.”
Judge Ayman al-Akazi issued the verdict in a brief, five-minute session in a court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He sentenced Nabil to three years in prison for insulting Islam and the prophet and inciting sectarian strife and another year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak.
Nabil, wearing a gray T-shirt and sitting in the defendants pen, gave no reaction and his face remained still as the verdict was read. He made no comment to reporters as he was immediate led outside to a prison truck.
Seconds after he was loaded into the truck and the door closed, an Associated Press reporter heard the sound of a slap from inside the vehicle and a shriek of pain from Nabil. [full text]