Egyptian Blogger Sentenced to Four Years in Jail

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A young Egyptian blogger has become the first person in Egypt sentenced to a jail term for opinions expressed on the internet.

Human-rights groups condemned what they called the "chilling precedent" set by an Alexandria court when it sentenced Abdel Kareem Suleiman to four years in prison for insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak.

Some of Suleiman's blog opinions were decidedly outspoken. He described companions of the prophet Mohammed as "terrorists" and he compared President Mubarak to the pharaohs who ruled ancient Egypt.

But that last barb, at least, is hardly new. Two years ago, businessman Mohammed Farid Hassenein got into no trouble for making essentially the same comment during his unsuccessful bid to challenge Mubarak for the presidency.

Outside the courtroom today, there was a surprising development in another story, involving an Egyptian who was allegedly tortured by the CIA after being kidnapped from Milan.

The Egyptian cleric Hassan Nasser, better known as Abu Omar, came forward to say he wants to return to Italy to testify in the case against the Americans who allegedly kidnapped him. An Italian judge last week issued indictments for 26 Americans, most of them CIA agents, as well as Italy's intelligence chief.

Abu Omar says he was seized in Milan and sent to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. After remaining largely quiet since his release, today he said he was risking the wrath of the Egyptian security services to demand that he be allowed to return to italy.

"I was subject to the worst kind of terror in Egyptian prisons," Omar said. "I know I will be arrested after giving this statement but this is a truth that the whole world should know. I will show you some torture marks in my body. "

Omar displayed marks on his wrists and ankles that he said were evidence of torture. But it's not clear if he will ever have his day in court. None of the indicted Americans is still in Italy, and Rome has not requested their extradition.



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