Egyptian Atheist Alber Saber Convicted and Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Blasphemy

Image via CFI

Egypt has struck a major blow to the fundamental human right to freedom of expression, and unjustly stripped an innocent man of his freedom, as Alber Saber, the 27-year-old atheist activist and blogger, was convicted today of blasphemy and sentenced to three years in prison.

In a case similar to that of Indonesia’s imprisoned Alexander Aan, Saber was discovered to have been an admin of an atheist Facebook page. An angry mob surrounded his house, and he was soon arrested and charged with blasphemy. While awaiting his verdict, Saber was attacked by fellow inmates who cut his throat with a razor blade after finding out that he had “insulted” their religion.

Amnesty International has already responded, saying:

This conviction will ruin his life, whether he serves the sentence or not. The court should have thrown the case out on the first day, yet now he’s been branded as having insulted religion.

The formal charge for which Saber was convicted by a Cairo-based court was “contempt of the Muslim and Christian religions,” according to Daily News Egypt.

Saber’s mother Kariman Meseeha, was gobsmacked by the ruling, telling the press:

My son has lost the years of his youth, he will come out of prison at 30 years old! He wasted a year dodging State Security, another on the revolution and now they want to lock him up for three more? If this is what the revolution brings I don’t want it.

This conviction takes place only days before Egypt is set to vote on a new constitution, one which prohibits insulting religion.

Saber’s case is one of the many cases being highlighted by the Campaign for Free Expression, a project of my employer, the Center for Inquiry. Sadly, Alber’s is not by a long shot an isolated case.

Said Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch to the New York Times:

The spike in prosecutions over the past year and a half was due to complaints being filed by Islamist lawyers on a decentralized basis, but the constitution does more than that, it makes it state policy. And the tragic thing is that I think there is nothing anyone can do to stop this from growing in the future.


About Paul Fidalgo

Paul is communications director for the Center for Inquiry, as well as an actor and musician. His personal blog is Near-Earth Object, and he tweets as @paulfidalgo. He is the author of a short (and cheap!) Kindle book on the atheist political movement, Under the Stained Glass Ceiling: Atheists' Precarious Place in Modern American Politics.

  • GodlessPoutine

    This is depressing on so many levels. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-De-Fleuriot/611844223 Mike De Fleuriot

    I am trying to think of a similar crime that we atheists could use against theists who offend us. And I got nothing…
     

    • DougI

       In America Christians cry persecution if we call it a “Holiday Tree”.

      • Rwlawoffice

         And women call it a war on women if others don’t want to pay for their birth control.

        In Egypt, Christians are being crucified, yet you hear nothing of that in the mainstream media and certainly no outrage here.  In fact some here call for this very persecution against Christians saying they should be imprisoned or in extreme cases, killed for following their beliefs . A few posters come to mind who have advocated just that.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          “certainly no outrage here”

          Excuse me a fucking minute?  There’s plenty of outrage over religious nutjobs killing people.  The fact that they’re killing other religious nutjobs doesn’t concern ‘us’.  BUT IT’S NOT THE TOPIC OF THIS FUCKING POST

          As for the mainstream media, go complain to the mainstream media and ask them why they’re spending so much time on the war on Christmas and so little on religious violence in the mid-East.

          I’ve had it with this passive aggressive shit.  It’s possible to care about more than one thing.  Just because you don’t give a shit about my problem doesn’t mean I have to drop everything and spend ALL my energy on yours.  You don’t think enough is being said about persecution of Christians in Egypt?  Then start your own blog, or write an article for Hemant and maybe he’ll post it.

          As for your ‘few posters’, if I had a penny for every anonymous online Christian who has expressed a wish for violence against me, I’d be suffocated under a mountain of metal.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            I’ve love for anyone to tell us which country in the world is more dangerous for Christians than atheists.  Anyone?

            • Rwlawoffice

               China

          • Rwlawoffice

             Of course it is possible to care about more than one thing.  I was responding to the post that mentioned Christians here claiming persecution for “Happy Holidays” with a reference to other groups in this country that claim “war” on them for seemingly trivial things in comparison to how women are treated in country’s like Egypt and then with a reference about true Christian persecution in Egypt.  Seemed like a relevant response.

            • coyotenose

              Or, restated, “I have persecution envy/narcissim and this isn’t about us yet, goddamit!”

        • DougI

           Since nobody is demanding free birth control for women and crying persecution if they don’t get it I really doubt your other claim is credible.  Paying for health insurance and receiving health coverage for that insurance isn’t having someone else paying for that coverage.  You have no idea what you are talking about.

          http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/08/22/jonathan-kay-how-egypts-crucifixion-hoax-became-a-classic-internet-urban-legend/

          • Rwlawoffice

            If an employer pays for health insurance on behalf of his employees, that includes birth control coverage, then someone else is paying for it. 

            • DougI

              The employee is paying for the health insurance as part of their wages numbnuts.

              • Rwlawoffice

                Hey genius the employer pays some if not all of the insurance premium depending on the company. But in reality the fight over birth control was the obamaca mandate that insurance companies provide birth control with no co pay or free to the woman. This of course raises the premium on everyone else to cover the cost.

                • DougI

                   Hey “genius” health insurance and other employee compensation are all part of an employee’s wages.  They aren’t given out for free, they are given in exchange for the person’s labor.  It’s obvious you still have no idea what you’re talking about.  I can’t dumb anything down further for you, so if you don’t understand by now then you’re beyond help.

                • coyotenose

                   Not to mention that insurance providers sell packages and don’t itemize to that level of detail in said packages, so no one actually saves anything by making these exclusions (which are intended to let the employer exercise religious control over the employee’s persona life anyway.)

        • pascalecake

          You have a very narrow understanding of what’s been called the “War on Women”.

          And furthermore – are you suggesting that any complaints about things less serious than being murdered for one’s beliefs are irrelevant?  Does something have to reach a set standard of suffering before we’re allowed to acknowledge it?

        • Octoberfurst

           Egyptian Copts are being “crucified” in Egypt?  Evidence please.
          Oh and please give me examples or names of people who have said that Christians here should be imprisoned or killed for their beliefs because personally I think you are full of shit.

          • Rwlawoffice

             http://www.examiner.com/article/christian-murders-torture-by-egyptians-ignored-by-obama-media

            http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/48924

            Just a couple of sources.  There are many more.

            As for the other comment, you have been around long enough to see what I am talking about.  Just wait for a topic on same sex marriage or pro life and you will see it again.

    • FreedomFighter

       How about sending them to a Gulag? That seemed to work for the Soviets.

      For a while anyway.

  • tychobrahesbladder

    _This_ is why I do not keep  my atheistic views to myself

    • good_creon

       I was thinking the SAME thing

    • R Bruce Bicknell

      I was sort of thinking the opposite, but point taken.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Relase the plagues! Oh, wait! I’m doing it wrong.

  • DougI

    Hopefully he makes it out alive after those three years.  He pretty much received a death sentence.

  • FreedomFighter

    Thats a terrible thing.

    Now, anything to say about the Coptic Christians killed by the Egyptians?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Maybe there’s some news over at friendlycopticchristian.com?

      • FreedomFighter

         site not found

        • Guest

          Seriously?

        • Coyotenose

           http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/001/582/picard-facepalm.jpg?1240934151

    • Sven2547

      Are you trying to make a point of some kind?

    • http://mittenatheist.blogspot.com/ Kari Lynn

      This is an atheist blog. If you want to talk about what you want to talk about, start your own blog.

      • Baal

         It’s a snide derail but the copts are getting slammed hard as well.  I have low standards and am pleased that FF bothered to mentioned that this jail term for blasphemy is  terrible thing.

      • Superdove

        Have you established rules about what can be spoken about here? What are they? Only posts that support atheism? Please illuminate us.

        • Coyotenose

           Kari Lynn was establishing what ought to be obvious to anyone who can think: that the jingoist OP is trying to change the subject. It’s a common tactic among your ilk.

      • Blacksheep

        Not sure what you mean – it’s not OK to mention that Christians are being persecuted / killed / nailed to trees / in Egypt?

        I think it’s relevent, because it points out that hatred is not limited to only certain groups. And it can lead to common ground between sane people of all faiths.

        • Coyotenose

           That is by no means why it was brought up. Context matters, including the context of the OP’s other posts. This is about changing the subject and making it all about POOR YOU.

          • Blacksheep

            I’m not familiar with his other posts.

            I do think it’s a facet of the same subject, though.

        • Glasofruix

          Yep they are being killed by another religious nutjobs, your point being?

      • Batboy

        WTF???

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705188 Richard Hughes

      That is also a terrible thing and I’m interested in hearing more about it. Can you provide me with links to appropriate articles?

    • Coyotenose

       Persecution envy much?

      That user name… Jesus but jingoism is pathetic.

  • Blacksheep

    Christians are being murdered in Egypt as well:
    “In mid-October Egyptian media published news of an altercation between Muslim and Christian students over a classroom seat at a school in Mallawi, Minya province. The altercation lead to the murder of a Christian student.  the Christian student was murdered because he was wearing a crucifix.Today the parents of the 17-year-old Christian student Ayman Nabil Labib, broke their silence, confirming that their son was murdered on October 16, in “cold blood because he refused to take off his crucifix as ordered by his Muslim teacher.” 

    Another headline:

    “Attacks Against Christians Under Way In Northern Egypt After Call To Murder All Who Refuse To Convert To Islam”

    • Coyotenose

       Persecution envy much?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      An important distinction being that they were murdered, as opposed to sentenced to death by the state.  People face violence and death all over the world for their beliefs.  Not to belittle that, but what Alber Saber and Alexander Aan face is official, not private.  And in both cases, death sentences were possible.

      The point is, this particular blog post has a very focused topic.  There’s a fuck of a lot of violence going on in the world at any time.  I could go on all day listing the things not mentioned, and to what end?

      Why are some people so uncomfortable with this blog post that they feel the need to change the subject so quickly?

      • Blacksheep

        Point about distinction between state / mobs taken. 
        When I read about an atheist being sent to prison, I automatically think of the state of Christians in that country as well. 
        To me, it’s all current and linked, and all part of the same mess over there.

        Changing the subject would be bringing up a story about Christian persecutuion in the Sudan.

        • WoodyTanaka

          “When I read about an atheist being sent to prison, I automatically think of the state of Christians in that country as well.” 

          How very christian of you.

          “To me, it’s all current and linked, and all part of the same mess over there.”

          Yes, the mess is called “faith,” and it doesn’t matter what flavor of it you prefer.

          • Blacksheep

            Your responses are just critical rants. My response was an honest reason why I brought up the persecution of Christians in Egypt.

            The mess is not faith, it’s pure egotism.

            • WoodyTanaka

               We know why you brought up the persecution of Christians in Egypt: Even when the subject is persecution of atheists, you Christians have to have the biggest, bestest, persecutionesty persecutions of them all. 

              You know, because y’all are so awesome at that humility stuff…

              And, yes, the mess is faith.  They have their little fairy-filled lives and you have yours, but you pretend the fairies are blue and they insist the fairies are green (even though neither of you can see the fairies and there’s no evidence they actually exist.) 

              So when they come around waiving a gun in your face and asking what color the fairies are, instead of saying, “oh, yeah, sure, I guess they’re green.  If I squint a bit” and saving your ass until the bullies go away or the society climbs out of the stone age, you boldly state, “THE FAIRIES ARE BLUE!!!” in order to prove that the Christians have the bestest, most awesomeist, most martyryest martyrs out there.

              Go Jesus! 

            • se habla espol

               But faith *is* pure egotism, so yes, the mess is faith.

      • Blacksheep

        (It was government forces killing the Coptic Christians.)

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          One of your examples was.  

          An angry crowd of thousands gathered at the largest cathedral here on Monday to mourn the death of two dozen Coptic Christian demonstrators killed the night before in clashes with security forces, as liberal activists lamented the military’s increasingly tight hold on power. The bloodshed appeared to mark a turning point in the revolution, many here said.

          Not the same thing as one person being arrested, charged, convicted, and imprisoned.  (Currently out on bail pending an appeal).

          It’s not illegal to be a Coptic Christian in Egypt.  It is illegal to suggest that God (or Allah) does not exist.

          Now that the discussion has been moved away from Alber in particular and the problem of blasphemy laws in general, would you like to explain why you’re only upset about the treatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt now?  These events were last year.  Where was your outrage then?

          • Blacksheep

            It’s going on right now as well. What makes you think I was not outraged then? 

            And why would you use a phrase like, “would you like to explain…”

            See my post, below, in which I’m trying to have a friendly discourse. But I see…

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              Because you’ve consistently tried to make this about your topic, which is essentially dismissing Paul’s topic- Alber Saber.

              You’re so focused on oranges that rather than talk about apples, you want to talk about fruit, so you can bring in your oranges.   Some of us who are genuinely concerned about apples find that annoying.  And in my case that’s probably putting it mildly.  I’m in a low religious tolerance phase right now.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    The formal charge for which Saber was convicted by a Cairo-based court was “contempt of the Muslim and Christian religions,”
    Guess that’s Egypt off my itinerary for now then, because I have nothing but  contempt of the Muslim and Christian religions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

    Egypt where you can travel back in time to the 16th century.  

  • rlrose328

    Shit.  Me… this planet… not compatible.

  • madpmadashell

    Hang in there Alber! Those in the Egyptian government are a bunch of bloviating egomaniacal jackasses.  

  • Keulan

    Guess I won’t be visiting Egypt anytime soon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mustafa.imam Mustafa Imam

    neo-inquisitions

  • http://www.facebook.com/mustafa.imam Mustafa Imam

    neo-inquisitions

  • Atheist

    What a sick world we live in

  • PA_Year_of_the_Bible

    I think we need to stop jumping down the throats of Christians who dare bring up the persecution of Christians in predominately Islamic countries, and start to form free-speech alliances with them….if they are interested.  Or do we only care about free speech for ourselves??

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Trying to keep the subject on the blog post and not have it hijacked is not an attack on free speech.

  • Mjchafe

    Simply discgusting…biggest concern is that this type of violence and hatred will show up in our own nations where we honour and respect the religious choices of the individual…the west must show a united front against this type of state sanctioned, and in fact, state led terror.  We must face the face that religious zealotry is every bit as dangeroous as armed militias.  Tolerance in the name of religion can be used against the naive.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    “Words should never lead to imprisonment” say Egypt rights orgs on blasphemy sentence

    http://www.bikyamasr.com/83663/words-should-never-lead-to-imprisonment-say-egypt-rights-orgs-on-blasphemy-sentence/