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Blogger Kareem Amer released from prison

(PEN American Center/IFEX) - New York City, November 16, 2010 - PEN American Center welcomes the news that 26-year-old blogger and PEN American Center Honorary Member Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, better known as Kareem Amer, was finally released from prison Monday evening, on PEN's International Day of the Imprisoned Writer, but remains troubled that he was made to serve a full four-year sentence solely for his writings and was held for ten days after the expiration of his sentence.

On February 22, 2007, Kareem Amer was convicted of "disparaging Islam" and "defaming the Egyptian president" for critical articles on his blog. His four-year sentence began retroactively, on the day of his arrest on November 6, 2006, and he was due to be released from Alexandria's Borg al-Arab prison on November 5, 2010. However, PEN American Center received reports that the blogger was instead taken to the State Security Intelligence (SSI) headquarters in Alexandria. The Free Kareem Coalition reported that he was beaten in SSI custody, but that he was released last night and is now safe at home with friends and family.

Kareem Amer had been one of PEN's highest priority cases since 2007, and PEN's Freedom to Write and International Programs Director Larry Siems commended the efforts of PEN's Members to win his release, which included organizing a rally in front of the Egyptian Mission to the U.N. on November 6, 2008, on the two-year anniversary of his arrest. Siems said PEN Members around the world were delighted to learn that Kareem Amer is finally free.

Siems noted, however, that Amer's case was indicative of serious shortcomings for freedom of expression in Egypt, and said that he never should have been arrested or imprisoned in the first place. "Kareem Amer was jailed for exercising his inalienable human right to freedom of expression, made to serve four years in prison, and held ten days after his release date without explanation. We call on Egyptian authorities to amend the laws that regularly imprison writers and bloggers and allow all of its citizens the right to express themselves freely."
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