Reporters Without Borders

Blogger Kareem el-Beheiri freed after 73 days in prison

Blogger Kareem el-Beheiri freed after 73 days in prison

Published on Monday 2 June 2008.
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Kareem El-Beheiri, a blogger who was arrested on 6 April in the industrial town of Mahalla (100 km north of Cairo) while covering a strike in the textile plant where he worked, was freed on 1st june. The authorities accused him of encouraging the strike on his blog, in which he referred to the actions being organised by Egyptian workers in protest against their poor living standards.

Blogger Kareem el-Beheiri (http://egyworkers.blogspot.com/), was yesterday released without charge from Borg el Arab prison, 40 kms from Alexandria.

Factory worker el-Beheiri, was arrested on 6 April while covering a cost of living protest at a factory in Mahalla, north of Cairo. A prosecutor ordered his release ten days later, along with that of two other activists, Tareq Amin and Kamal al-Fayoumy, but they remained in custody without explanation until yesterday.

El-Beheiri was employed at the textiles factory Misr Spinning and Weaving in the industrial zone of Mahalla. He was sacked for “absenteeism” while he was in prison even though his employers had received notification of his imprisonment. The authorities accused him of calling for a strike on his blog, on which he posted news about demonstrations by Egyptian workers in protest at poor living standards.

Egypt has six million Internet users and one of the most active blogospheres in the Middle-East. Internet users made several calls for people to join the 6 April strike on the social networking site Facebook. The “6 April” group had attracted 64,000 members on the eve of the protests. Police in Mahalla beat its organiser Ahmed Maher, a 27-year-old engineer, for 12 hours to get him to give them the identity of the group members so that the authorities could stamp it out.


19.05 - Call for release of blogger held since 6 April protests

Reporters Without Borders calls on the Egyptian authorities to free Kareem El-Beheiri, a blogger who was arrested on 6 April in the industrial town of Mahalla (100 km north of Cairo) while covering a strike in the textile plant where he worked. He has been held in Borg El Arab prison (40 km outside Alexandria) since April.

“We are worried about Beheiri’s health as he is being mistreated and has gone on hunger strike,” the press freedom organisation said. “The prison’s management refuses to move him to the hospital so that he can receive appropriate treatment. We call on the authorities to release him while they decide exactly what charges they are going to bring against him.”

Beheiri and two other activists who were arrested the same day, Tareq Amin and Kamal el-Fayyoumy, described their mistreatment in a joint letter on 18 May to Zakareya Abdel Aziz, the head of the Cairo Judges Club. “We were tortured at state security headquarters in Mahalla on 6, 7 and 8 April,” the letter said. “Policemen administered electric shocks to Kareem and insulted and beat Tareq Amin and Kamal El-Fayyoumy,” it said. (http://allthegoodnameshadgone.blogs...)

Since his arrest, Beheiri has been fired from his job at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla on the grounds of absenteeism, although his employers have received documents confirming that he is being detained. The authorities accuse him of encouraging the strike on his blog, in which he referred to the actions being organised by Egyptian workers in protest against their poor living standards.

In his last blog entry, Beheiri wrote: “It is now 7 a.m. on 6 April, and I am going to Mahalla to cover the factory strike. Pray for me and I hope that everyone will succeed in demonstrating the flaws in the Egyptian regime. Kareem El-Beheiri, for a free country, that of Egyptian revolutionaries.”

The 6 April strike in protest against increases in the prices of basic staples was observed by several thousand people in Cairo and Mahalla. A “6 April” group on the social-networking website Facebook urging Egyptians to protest by all possible means had attracted 64,000 members by the eve of the protest.

Esraa Abdel Fattah Ahmed was detained for more than two weeks for being a member of this group. Its organiser, 27-year-old engineer Ahmed Maher, was beaten by the Mahalla police for 12 hours to get him to give the password to the Facebook group and the real names of its members. Facebook cancelled his account because it thought all the messages he was sending to members of the “6 April” group were spam.

This strike organised on the Internet was unprecedented for the authorities, who did not know who to blame it on,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We condemn the fact that people have been detained for several weeks just for using their right to free expression.”

Egypt has six million Internet users and its blogosphere is one of the most active in the Middle East. Bloggers have usurped the governmental news media by posting photos and videos online since the demonstrations calling for President Hosni Mubarak’s departure in the run-up to the 2005 elections. Nowadays they are regarding as a leading source of news and information.

Video of policemen torturing detainees that was posted online by journalist Wael Abbas in January 2007 led to a trial in which the footage was used to convict and sentence one of the policemen to three years in prison. It was the first time that something of this nature had taken place.

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