Thursday, May 31, 2007

Update on Karim Amer

Yesterday I wrote about Egyptian blogger Abdel Moneim's problems with the law and compared it to those of blogger Karim Amer. Today there is new information about Amer's case.
Two representatives of an Egyptian human rights consortium was able to meet with Amer this week. Activists have been concerned that Amer was sent into solitary confinement in prison for more than 60 days between March and May. The punishment was not justified, the representatives said and was in contradiction to normal Egyptian procedure. The confinement seemed to coincide with the appearance at the jail of Egyptian prosecutors.
There's been some controversy about funds raised for Karim's defense. Some of his opponents have used the efforts to label him as an outsider who is against Egypt and who is benefiting financially from the situation. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
While Karim doesn't need financial support for his defense, he does need other kind of support. The representatives sent out an appeal for people around the world to write Karim and offer support. He still faces a four year sentence, and while work is still continuing on his case, writing to him directly will be the best way for him to maintain his spirits. I encourage anyone who cares about the case to support him directly by writing. At a time when diplomatic and political approaches don't seem to work, we need to find other means to support Egyptian human rights defenders. Sometimes the most effective way to ensure they continue their work is to let them know they are not alone.
Below is his address.
Address of Correspondence
Borg Al-Arab Prison
Room 5 Section 2 -
Abdel Kareem Nabil Soliman

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Human Rights and the Muslim Brothers

Karim Amer has attracted some attention in the American media and from some American politicians, as well as he should. The heavy-handed and politically motivated arrest and conviction of the Egyptian blogger for his peaceful exercise of freedom of speech is just another example of how this government seeks to muzzle civil society and is determined to shut down the Internet as a force for civil society and democratic change.
But fewer Americans know about Abdel Moneim Mahmoud, and they should. Like Karim, Abdel is an Egyptian blogger who has brought attention to human rights abuses in Egypt. Like Karim, Abdel now is in detention and faces criminal charges for his activity. Like Karim, Abdel has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International
Abdel in particular has done much to publicize abuses about torture in Egypt, which as I've mentioned I believe to be one of the core human rights concerns in the country. He's met with Amnesty International officials previously on the topic, and the organization is concerned that meetings with AI and other international groups may be one of the reason for his arrest.
But Abdel is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that may be one obstacle to Americans speaking out on his case. It shouldn't.
I don't agree with basic MB positions on a lot of issues, and the organization has a past history that is connected to violence. But since the mid-1990s, the organization has renounced violence, and pledged to seek political change through non-violent means, specifically the ballot box. And they've been somewhat successful, and for that success it has faced significant oppression from the government, Abdel's arrest just being the latest in a long line of detentions.
And frankly its success has some American policymakers scared. It's hard for Americans to take on support for political Islamists.
But Egyptian human rights activists have no such reluctance, as seen by this statement from a consortium of Egyptian HR groups, and they're watching us to see if we're following.
This is a clear example of why it's important to have a single standard in applying human rights. Doing human rights work requires setting priorities to be effective, but if those priorities are skewed by non-human rights concerns, such as fear of political Islamists, it's not going to be credible. Credibility is essential to the effectiveness of this work. That doesn't mean we have to work on every possible case -- we can't. But over the long term, that work must reflect the general pattern of HR concerns in a region.
For more about the Abdel's case, click here.
Please write a letter to the Egyptian ambassador declaring Abdel Moneim Mahmoud to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release. Also ask that Egyptian officials stop the continued harassment of Egyptian bloggers, reminding them of their responsibilities under international agreements and the Egyptian constitution to protect citizens' peaceful expression of their freedom of speech.
Ambassador Nabil Fahmy
3521 International Ct. NW
Washington DC 20008

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