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Egypt blogger convicted of insulting Islam released

Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil [advocacy website] was released on Monday following four years of imprisonment on charges of insulting Islam and causing sectarian strife on his blog [website, in Arabic]. Nabil, a former law student, was convicted in 2007 [JURIST report] for posting statements critical of Islamic authorities and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak [BBC profile], calling him a dictator. Nabil also allegedly called his university, Al-Azhar University [academic website, in Arabic], "the university of terrorism." Charges against him included inciting sedition, insulting Islam, harming national unity and insulting the president. Nabil's four-year sentence had ended on November 5, but he was held by authorities for 10 more days for unknown reasons. Following the expiration of his prison sentence, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on Egyptian authorities to immediately investigate allegations of mistreatment [press release] and to explain the reasons for his continued detention. On Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website] praised his release [press release], criticizing Egyptian authorities for what the rights group described as poor conditions of his detention, "physical mistreatment" and torture. Egyptian authorities have yet to release a statement. Nabil's supporters have said that government repression and censorship have become more prevalent in recent years, as the US has let up political pressure for reforms. Nabil's case was the first in which a blogger has been charged with a crime.

The Egyptian government has faced ongoing criticism from international human rights groups for its treatment of prisoners. On Tuesday, AI called for Egyptian authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate [JURIST report] the death of 19-year-old Ahmed Shaaban who was allegedly tortured in police custody. Sidi Gaber police officers are also currently under investigation for another incident in which a man was dragged out of a cafe and publicly beat to death [HRW report]. According to the US State Department's Human Rights Report for Egypt, in 2009, there were 30 reported instances of torture in police custody [DOS report]. Egyptian authorities investigated some of these, and, in several of the cases, punished the responsible officers and made them pay compensation to the victims. In 2008, it suspended 280 police officers [JURIST report] alleged to have abused their power and committed human rights violations.

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