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.