Reporters Without Borders hails today’s decision by a court in the Cairo district of Hadayek El Qobba to acquit blogger Wael Abbas on appeal and quash the six-month sentence that had been imposed by a lower court.
“This is a victory for netizens who express their views freely online and a setback for the government and its strategy of harassment and intimidating its critics,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We now call for justice to be rendered to the blogger Kareem Amer, who has already served two thirds of his jail sentence and who should be freed unconditionally.”
17.02.2010: Authorities urged to stop persecuting leading blogger Wael Abbas
Leading Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas could see his six-month prison sentence upheld tomorrow if his appeal is rejected by the court that is due to hear it tomorrow. The sentence was imposed on 11 November by a court in the North Cairo suburb of Hadayek El Qobba after it convicted him on a charge of damaging an Internet cable.
The damage was in fact caused last April by a policeman and his brother (the cable’s actual user), who were also responsible for a physical attack on Abbas.
“We call for this ridiculous conviction to be overturned at once and for Wael Abbas to be acquitted,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The real aim of this trumped-up charge was to silence a well-known blogger and prevent him from continuing to expose things that embarrass the authorities. The government is showing that it is openly hostile to the free flow of information online and will stop at nothing to control it.”
The persecution of Abbas is typical of the way bloggers are constantly harassed by the authorities, who fear their ability to rally the regime’s critics and galvanise them into action. Abbas has been well known ever since he posted videos of torture in Egyptian police stations on his blog.
One netizen is currently imprisoned in Egypt. It is the blogger Kareem Amer, who was arrested in 2006 for posting a critical comment on an Internet forum and who was sentenced in 2007 to three years in prison on a charge of insulting the president and another year in prison on a charge of inciting hatred of Islam.
Describing the case against Wael Abbas as a “manipulation of the law,” the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information today called on free speech activists in Egypt and the rest of the world to express their support for him.