Egypt: Allow Karam Saber, a human rights defender, to remain free
According to reports received, Mr. Saber, Director of the Land Center for Human Rights (LCHR), an organizational Member of ESCR-Net, was charged and sentenced in absentia in 2013 with contempt of religion, atheism, and inciting to sedition and bloodshed under Article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code, also known as the Blasphemy Law. The charges, which were filed by the Beni Suif Governorate in April of 2011, followed the release of a book he had authored titled "Ayn Allah (Where is Allah?), which describes the lives and religious experiences of farmers in Egypt. Article 98(f) of the Penal Code imposes lengthy imprisonment and hefty fines for the alleged use of religion to incite strife, ridiculing or insulting a religion or a sect or “damaging national unity.”
ESCR-Net is concerned that these charges will be upheld during an upcoming trial planned for 5 June 2014, and that Mr. Saber may be sentenced to five years of prison by the Beba Court of Appeals, which would pose serious threats to his human rights.
ESCR-Net is further concerned that the charges filed against Mr. Saber come as a result of his activities, in connection with the Land Center for Human Rights, to promote and defend human rights in Egypt, including the rights of children and economic and cultural rights of farmers, and to put an end to corruption. Furthermore, the decision of the Beba Court to uphold the charges against Mr. Saber follows the submission of reports by human rights organizations in Egypt to the United Nations Human Rights Council in anticipation of the periodic review of Egypt planned to be held between late October and early November of the present year.
In light of the grave nature of these allegations, ESCR-Net call on the Government of Egypt to:
- Ensure full respect for Mr. Saber’s rights to freedom of thought and religion), freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial and ensure that Mr. Saber is not deprived of his liberty
- Provide protection against persecution and retaliation for Mr. Saber and other human rights defenders in Egypt as a result of work to promote human rights
- Take all necessary steps to ensure that the provisions of law and its application in Egypt serve to uphold, and in no way infringe upon fundamental human rights