The prominent Egyptian NGO Hisham Mubarak Center for Law (HMCL) issued a report, titled “Egypt on the Crossroad …2008“, documenting the status of freedom of expression in the country during the year 2008, including the detention and harassment of bloggers.
The report (download the report in Arabic) has an exclusive section of the violations related to Internet activism, using the term “internet activists” instead of “bloggers”, though the latest is more common used. The authors of the report investigated the web-based organizing campaigns by Internet users in Egypt and the use of services like Facebook.
‘Egypt on the Crossroad …2008′ also noted the continuation of the detention of three bloggers, counting them as prisoners of opinion:
2008 witnessed the detention of three prisoners of opinion: Mosaad Abu Fagr, Yahia Abu Nosera and Kareem Amer. 2008 started and ended while the three are behind bars, because of accusations related to their views.
Beside the aforementioned bloggers, the report mentioned that more than 43 Internet user were harassed in 2008 by police, because of their online activities. “Egypt on the Crossroad” listed a number of events where the Internet has played a major role in organizing such as 6th April general strike, Egypt Valentine Day and solidarity caravans to Gaza.
On the same day of issuing this report, ANHRI issued a statement to express its strong condemnation and dismay at the continued detention of the Christian blogger Hani Nazeer since October 3rd 2008. The blogger remains in detention at Burj Al Arab prison, suffering harsh conditions as he is being held with common criminals.
His arrest occurred with the collaboration of the Church in Naga Hammadi, his hometown in Qena Governorate. Nazeer is the author of “Karz elhob“
The controversy began on October 1st 2008, when some young Muslims were browsing Hani's blog and found a link to another site containing an electronic novel called “Azazil's Goat in Mecca” which included an attack on Islam. This work was written by an anonymous author under the name of “Father Utah.” The novel came in response to Yusuf Zidane's famous novel “Azazil,” which was considered by some conservatives as offensive to Christianity.
Some young people in Hani's village became very angry and thought he was the author of the story. Security Forces took this opportunity to arrest Hani Nazeer in order to get rid of the problems raised by his blog because of his strong opposition to both Muslim and Christian hardliners.