The sentencing of Egyptian blogger Abdel-Kareem Soliman to four years in prison for criticizing fundamentalist Islam and the authoritarian policies of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is not an isolated incident, but part of a broader crackdown on independent media in Egypt:
[Blogger Hala] Botros, 42, says she was also persecuted by security authorities for reporting on a number of sectarian clashes between Muslims and the Christian minority in southern Egypt.
“They beat up my father at night on the street and told him: ‘This is a gift from your daughter’,” she said. “I was summoned to the police during the night and they treated me roughly. I was kept in solitary confinement for hours.”
Prosecutors later charged Botros with harming national security and publishing false news. She was released on bail and forced to shut down her blog, Copts Without Borders.
So far the only reaction from our government to Kareem’s sentencing (that I can find) is this watered-down statement from a State Department spokesman:
We are very concerned by the conviction and prison sentence of Mr. Abdel Karim for expressing his opinions. And as far as our record show, he’s the first Egyptian blogger to be prosecuted for the contents of his remark. And certainly while we have great respect for all religions, including certainly Islam, the role of freedom of expression is critical for the development of a democratic and prosperous society. And so free expression of opinion and free speech are a critical component of that, including on the internet, and I think we view them as part of general basic human rights.
Where’s John Bolton when you need him?